It is difficult to point out the strides taken by women rugby in Kenya without mentioning the name Peris Mukoko Wanyaga. As far as the sport is concerned, Mukoko wears many hats as she is a former player and now an educator, referee and director for Kenya Rugby.
She owes all of these achievements to passion, discipline and integrity. And with a sport that is considered a reserve for men, Mukoko is redefining it and driving the gender agenda to ensure that women get to participate in rugby.
Pioneer Kenyan women rugby team
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Mukoko was introduced to the sport while at St Mary’s in Nairobi. It was more of compulsory for students to participate in co-curricular activities as a way of gaining points.
“I got into it through the school’s tradition at St Mary’s. The coach at that time and the teacher in charge encouraged us to take up the sport as part of our gaining hours to Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) programme,” she told the Standard.
Mukoko also took a level one course of officiating while still at the institution. This served to improve her awareness and rules of the game.
The thrill of hand-offs, scrum downs and rucks got the better part of her and she was part of the first Kenyan national rugby women team, the Kenya Lionesses in 2005. She also featured for Kenya Harlequins and Mwamba clubs.
However, there were only a handful of matches to be played in a year. The players only participated in Safari 7s and Elgon Cup tournaments. Because Mukoko wanted to be involved more in rugby, she made up her mind to transition to officiating in 2008.
She took up a level 2 officiating programme. This saw her officiate in HSBC Women’s 7s Series in 2014 as well as the Rugby Africa Gold Cup in 2017.
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In 2014 she was recognized as one of the leading women referees in Africa. Rugby Africa listed her among the ‘Unstoppables’ in 2020.
“What makes me unstoppable is the passion for the game. It is what actually led me from being a player into officiating both locally and internationally,” she said.
Redefining Women Rugby In Kenya
Mukoko is also an accredited and World Rugby Licensed Educator. She has been instrumental in advancing the sport that is widely considered a masculine one. This passion has seen her travel across Kenya in order to get more women participate in rugby.
“It is a male dominated sport. I look at this as an opportunity to work twice as hard. It has taken me as far as North Eastern part of Kenya, down to Southern part in getting more women of different backgrounds get involved in the game,” she says.
Mukoko has been serving as a director for Kenya Rugby since 2019 and has recently completed an online course in Public Policy Analysis from London School of Economics.
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She owes her determined bearing to her parents. In a recent interview with Standard, she detailed that her father taught her the importance of paying attention to whatever she does. Additionally, her mother has instilled the crucial attribute of balance in her.
“She has taught me how to ensure as a wife, mother and daughter I embrace and ensure that I do not lose myself through it, but strike the midpoint,” she said.
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