The Rugbywomen: Tackling Stereotypes
In 2017 I started following a group of rugby women from the Chantereine High School of Sarcelles, a stigmatized banlieue in the north of Paris. Banlieue is a French word to designate a suburb. It is composed by the words -lieu (place) and ban- (external). Somehow the banlieues have become banned places, often socially and politically dismissed by the state. Sarcelles is one of the most impoverished municipalities in the country and a significant part of its population has an immigrant background.
The Chantereine club was one of the best newcomer teams of the country. This was in part due to a collective effort between a young group of rugby players and their coach, Florian Clement, who started a project called 20 rugbywomen sarcelloises. The main objective was to use rugby as a way to stem school dropout and to promote citizenship values. In fact, Sarcelles has one of the highest school dropout rates of the country. By virtue of this project and the values promoted by rugby – empowerment, discipline, teamwork – the rugby girls were motivated to obtain their brevet (high school diploma). At the end of the year all of them achieved it. In addition, four of them were selected to join professional rugby clubs in Montpellier, Perpignan and Bretigny. They will continue their education in these professional training centres for the next three years.
For these young women, rugby is an empowering medium to overcome difficulties and gain confidence. It is also a tool to reverse gender, social and racial stereotypes, and to change the image of young women living in French suburbs.