In February 2012, the U.S. Department of State announced a global effort to engage women and girls through sports. The Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative will mobilize all of the U.S. Department of State’s international sports programming, from Sports Envoys traveling overseas to international Sports Visitors traveling to the United States, to increase the number of women and girls worldwide who are involved in sports. A cornerstone of this initiative is the creation of a new sports mentorship program that will connect women and girls from across the globe with their American counterparts.
Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power,” which embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools – in this case sports – to bring people together and foster greater understanding.
The Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative is comprised of three key components. They are:
Fusing the power of mentoring with sports, the Department of State will bring women who are sports leaders in their home countries to the United States for a four-week sports mentoring program with their American counterparts. Kicking-off in September, this mentorship will focus on creating opportunities around the world through the example of Title IX – the landmark law in the United States, affording equal opportunity for men and women in academics and athletics. It will also provide expert advice on sports management and how to develop sustainable female sports programs in their home countries.
Sports Envoys are current and retired professional athletes, coaches, and sports program administrators who travel overseas for the Department of State. They lead clinics and team-building activities, as well as engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of education and respect for diversity. In 2012, as part of the Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative, the Department of State will send 12 American envoys to Algeria, Argentina, Malaysia, Morocco, and Venezuela to engage with young athletes on the playing field on how to apply those lessons in life.
Sports Visitors are youth and coaches who travel to the United States for an exchange. Sports Visitor programs give young people an opportunity to discover how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom. In 2012, the Department of State will bring girls and female coaches from the Caribbean, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Tunisia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe to the United States for Sports Visitor exchanges in basketball, soccer, and track and field.
The Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports initiative builds on the evidence that women and girls who play sports throughout their life are increasingly likely to excel not only on the playing field, but also in life. According to a 2007 United Nations’ report entitled “Women 2000—Women, Gender Equality and Sport”— empowering women and girls through sport is an important social and economic empowerment tool.
· Women and girls acquire new professional networks, develop a sense of identity and access new opportunities to become more engaged in school and community life;
· Sports serve as a vehicle to improve women’s and girls’ leadership roles and participation in decision-making;
· Sports convene people across borders, cultures and belief systems, and can promote greater tolerance and understanding among individuals and communities;
· Girls’ participation in sports can challenge gender stereotypes and break down discriminatory attitudes;
· Sports teams and organizations provide an excellent opportunity to provide information and promote dialogue on the importance of girls’ education; and
· Studies show a direct correlation between girls’ participation in sports and higher education and employment; and that a single year of primary education correlates with a 10 – 20 percent increase in women’s wages later in life; a single year of secondary education results in a 15 – 25 percent increase.
For more information on the Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative, please log on to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ website at https://exchanges.state.gov/sports.