About the U.S. Department of State’s Initiatives to Empower Women through Sports
According to the United Nations, when girls participate in sports they are more likely to attend school and be able to reach their potential in contributing to society. When women and girls can walk on the playing field, they are more likely to step into the classroom, the boardroom, and step out as leaders in society. Drawing on the principles of Title IX— the landmark U.S. law that afforded equality for American women in sports and education–the U.S. Department of State’s empowering women through sports initiatives are designed to inspire participants to take these lessons of equality worldwide. The U.S. Department of State has worked with The Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee—the cooperative partner—to implement the Department’s initiatives to empower women through sports.
These sports initiatives comprise three key pillars:
The women’s empowerment sports envoy program mobilizes professional athletes, coaches, and administrators in a range of sports to engage underserved youth—particularly girls—on the court and in the community. During these outreach efforts overseas, sports envoys engage in dialogue on how sports plays into the development of leadership skills, health and wellness, inclusion, and academic success. Working with the U.S. Embassies to organize these female-focused exchanges, the Department sends primarily women envoys in a range of sports to every corner of the world.
To further connect with underserved women and girls around the world, the female-focused sports visitors programs bring girls and coaches to the United States for a fast-paced sports exchange. During their two weeks in the United States, these participants engage in team-building exercises, have conversations on health and respect for diversity, and participate in clinics with their American peers. Throughout the program, the participants experience the United States through the lens of women’s sports and learn about how the lessons of Title IX can apply on a global scale. Under the sports visitor umbrella, the Department brings hundreds of sports visitors representing every region of the world for programs in sports ranging from track & field to basketball to sitting volleyball.
The U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls through Sports is another means of promoting women’s rights through sports. This Council is made up of American trailblazers in women’s sports who support the Department’s efforts to empower women and girls globally. Whether it’s on the softball diamond, in the newsroom, or in the classroom, they are helping women and girls from around the world pursue their potential through sports.
As a joint collaboration, the U.S. Department of State and espnW teamed up to establish the Global Sports Mentoring Program in 2012. This flagship component of the Initiative pairs emerging women leaders from around the world with top American female executives in the sports industry. Since its inception, the program has created a new global network of women and girls who strive to create positive change in their home communities through sports. In order for the mentorship to play into a long-lasting positive impact worldwide, each emerging leader crafts a strategic plan with her mentor to put into action upon her return home with the common goal of creating sports opportunities for underserved girls and women.
Building on the successes of the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program for empowering women and girls through sports, the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) evolved to become two professional sports exchanges that draw on the strengths of past programming: GSMP: Empower Women through Sports and GSMP: Sport for Community.
With the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society as the continued partner for both the U.S. Department of State and espnW GSMP and GSMP: Sport for Community. The overarching Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) advances the rights and participation of women and people with disabilities around the world by using sports as a vehicle toward greater opportunity and inclusion. This initiative includes two annual mentorship programs that connect young professionals in the sports sector from around the world with American sports executives; the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring continues to empower women and girls through sports and the Sport for Community Global Sports Mentoring Program includes both males and females to focus on disability rights. During the mentorship exchanges, the emerging leaders develop in-depth action plans, the strategies that they will put into play upon their returns home. While the sports and countries vary for each emerging leader, all of the action plans aim to cause sustainable positive social change and open opportunities for marginalized—particularly women, girls, and people with disabilities—through sports. Working closely with their mentors and using a sports development curriculum as the foundation, the action plans are the culmination of the program and play into long-term impact around the world.
For background the Department’s past initiatives to empower women and girls through sports as well as a deep-dive on both the espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program and Sport for Community Global Sports Mentoring Program, please visit: https://globalsportsmentoring.org.