It was not until Belia Zibowa returned to Zimbabwe that she had a chance to reflect on her experiences in the United States during a sports visitor program.
“I thought it was going to be basketball drills all of the time, but…wow,” says Belia. “It was that and so much more. Coaching clinics and opportunities to interact with young American women and coaches kept us active and engaged each day.”
Belia was one of six female coaches to join 18 teenage girls from around the world for the Sports Diplomacy multi-country basketball exchange. As a part of the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative, this dynamic series of activities surrounded the Women’s NCAA Final Four. Drawing on her perspective as a female coach and administrator in the “man’s world” of Zimbabwean sports, Belia took to the themes of basketball and women’s empowerment.
“We met and spoke with people that told us of some of their struggles with inequality and how they overcame them,” says Belia. “From the young high school girls managing their time so they can practice and study…to the women that sacrificed so much to pave the way for future generations…to the husbands and dads that provide support, I realize that these people work hard to achieve equality.”
While Belia serves as a powerful role model in her own right, she still looks to others for inspiration. She shared that a highlight of the trip was the chance to meet an influential figure in the lives of many, Secretary Hillary Clinton.
“One of the most amazing days was when we met the Secretary of State,” says Belia. “Being in the presence of such a powerful woman shows us how a woman can reach the highest office in whatever career she chooses! She got to the top and is reaching out to women all over the world…showing that anything is possible for a young lady with a vision. The girls and I will not forget this experience and I believe it will inspire them in more ways than we can imagine.”
Moreover, the trip validated Belia’s zeal for sports as well as her desire to use it as a tool for positive social change. Belia hopes to expand opportunities for young Zimbabweans—particularly girls—to play basketball, stay healthy, set high goals, and become leaders in the sports sector or wherever their passions may lie. Her experience in the U.S. underscored her commitment as basketball administrator, coach, and leader in Zimbabwe.
“Sport has been a great love and hobby for me, but now it will surely be my livelihood,” says Belia. “I’m no longer scared to dream big.”