espnW: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative

'Teamwork,' empowerment at Final Four

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
1:15
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Dagces GoodridgeU.S. Department of StateDagces Goodridge was one of the participants in this past weekend's State Department event at the Final Four.

Long after the bright lights of March Madness dimmed, 24 female athletes from Liberia, Lithuania, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are taking home memories and lessons of their time in the United States to pay it forward to women and girls in their countries.

As part of the State Department's global efforts to empower women and girls, these young athletes were fortunate to meet the likes of Baylor's Brittney Griner and Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings and see the top women's basketball teams in the country compete for a national championship.

While they may swoon over the stars they met, it will be the lessons of Title IX -- of opportunity and equality -- that they will propel them forward on the field, in the classroom and in society once they return home.

One of these emerging athletes is Dagces Goodridge of Liberia. The 15-year-old is in the 11th grade and has played basketball for three years. Here, she shares her thoughts on her first trip to the United States, the status of sports for women and girls in Liberia and how she has learned to love the game of basketball:

On coming to the United States


"This is my first trip [to the United States] and WOW! It's so nice! I don't even have words to describe it. [I was coming to the U.S.] for training and playing basketball with other teams. It's so fun! We went shopping, we played games other than basketball. We met people in different programs apart from basketball. I'm having fun. Here, I made new friends and I understood what it's like to be friends with other people ... it's teamwork."

Status of sports for women and girls in Liberia


"Sports for girls in Liberia, it's not so good. A lot of girls like basketball, but because of the financial status ... we don't have enough stuff in our country, so it's hard. As for football, it's hard. People start talking to you like, 'You're going to be ugly like a man if you play that sport.' So, for girls in my country, sport is not good. People pay more attention to boys than girls when it comes to sports. My dad is tall and he has two basketball teams, so he encourages me every day."

For love of the game


"I love basketball because I'm tall; I have the height for basketball. I got a lot of encouragement from my friend's family. I was this tall and they said, 'Are you playing basketball? You have good height, you could play basketball and make money.' And I said, 'Well, I don't like it.' But, I started playing and now I like basketball -- it makes me happy. Even though I hate losing, when I'm on the court, I'm happy playing with other people. Even though they may beat me, I have to shake their hands; I have to do it. When I am in college -- like 20 or 21 -- through sports, I'm going to empower other people. We are strong women for a better world, and I'm going to empower other people to make a better world!"

Here are photos from the girls' trip to the Final Four in New Orleans:

Lisa LeslieUniversity Of Tennessee's Center for Sport, Peace and Society Sammielyn Semino, right, a basketball coach from the Philippines, meets with WNBA great Lisa Leslie.
Brittney GrinerUniversity Of Tennessee's Center for Sport, Peace and Society All-American Brittney Griner meets with emerging athletes and coaches from Liberia, Lithuania, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
State Dept/Final FourUniversity Of Tennessee's Center for Sport, Peace and SocietyPlaying a little pick up! Martyna Petrnait of Lithuania, right, and Marian Domingo hit the hard court at Tourney Town in New Orlenans.
State Dept/Final FourUniversity Of Tennessee's Center for Sport, Peace and SocietyWNBA champion Tamika Catchings meets with emerging female athletes. Catchings recently returned from Thailand, where she and fellow WNBAer Ebony Hoffman led clinics and conversation to empower women and girls in Bangkok.

The Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative was launched in 2012 by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. So far, it has engaged over 4,000 women and girls in more than 70 countries worldwide. Built on the core belief that empowering women and girls is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do, this initiative aims to increase women and girls' participation in sports. The cornerstone of this effort is the State Department and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, which works to engage, inspire and empower a new generation of women and girls through sports.

Catchings, Hoffman report from Thailand

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
2:44
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While the women's NCAA tournament was in full swing this past week, WNBA stars Tamika Catchings and Ebony Hoffman were bringing the game of basketball to more than 100 female athletes in Thailand.

As part of the State Department's Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative, the players led clinics and drills, and there was even a little trash talking.

"[Earlier this week] we had a shooting contest. My end was really energetic, really excited about it, so of course we won," Catchings said via the State Department. "No, no, I don't want to go there [laughs]."

"Tamika's team won, yes, I will admit that," Hoffman said. "But the girls had fun. They had big smiles on their faces, so I can't complain."

The main goal of the trip and overall initiative: increase the number of women and girls who participate in sports worldwide.

"For a lot of these kids, they really don't have a lot of opportunities to kind of get out and experience camps," Catchings said. "So for us to be able to bring our clinic here and for these girls to be a part of it, I mean, you can see the smiles on these girls' faces and you could tell that they were having a good time.

"I've talked about this all week long, just about basketball being a universal language. At first, they were looking at us like 'OK, who are these girls? Who are these ladies out here?' But as time wore on, you could tell they warmed up to us and that they had a really good time today."

Check out the latest report from Catchings and Hoffman (courtesy of the U.S. Department of State):

Catchings & Co. help girls in Thailand

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
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Tamika Catchings & Co. are checking in from Thailand, where they are sharing their stories and experiences with young athletes to show that anything is possible, as part of the State Department's Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative.

Check out the latest pictures from their trip this week (the group will also have a video report before heading back to the U.S.):

Tamika CatchingsU.S. Department of StateStrong Women, Better World! Strong Women, Better World! Tamika Catchings and her team celebrate their hard work and team play during a workout session in Bangkok.
Tamika CatchingsU.S. Department of StatePractice makes perfect. Tamika Catchings (pictured here), along with Ebony Hoffman and Becky Bonner, lead clinics in Bangkok, where they met with more than 100 young female athletes between the ages of 12-15.
Tamika CatchingsU.S. Department of StateYoung athletes get fired up after their victory in a shootout contest, which was led by the WNBA's Tamika Catchings and Ebony Hoffman.
Tamika CatchingsU.S. Department of StateTamika Catchings provides a passing pointer to a young athlete in Bangkok on Tuesday, as part of the State Department's global efforts to empower women and girls through sports.
Tamika CatchingsU.S. Department of StateRecognizing the importance of inclusiveness in sports and life, Ebony Hoffman, Becky Bonner and Tamika Catchings worked on hoops drills and techniques with players from the Sports Association of the Disabled.

You can click here to learn more about the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program.

Title IX's message shared in Thailand

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
1:29
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Title IX legislation helped open doors for girls and women in schools and sports since it was signed into law 40 years ago, but can its message reach those beyond America's borders?

That question is one of the main inspirations behind the State Department's Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative, which aims to encourage and motivate young female athletes across the globe.

Many well-known American athletes, including the WNBA's Tamika Catchings and Ebony Hoffman, are traveling abroad to share their stories and experiences with these young athletes and show them that anything is possible for women, on and off the playing field.

This week, as the State Department works in conjunction with the NBA and WNBA, Catchings and Hoffman are in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the initiative.

"I think with the Title IX celebrating its 40th year, we opened the doors in America and really we are trying to do the same across the globe," Catchings said in an interview with the State Department. "When you get on the court it does not really matter what language you speak. I mean, it's a universal language."

Catchings and Hoffman will share photos with espnW.com throughout the week; but first, here is a short video from their first day on the ground.

Video courtesy of U.S. Department of State:

You can also click here to learn more about the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program.

NGWSD: Reaching out to girls in Nicaragua

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
11:49
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"Smart power."

That is part of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's vision to empower women and girls through many tools as part of the Empowering Women and Girls through Sports initiative.

And that mission continued this week as Olympians Jessica Mendoza and Ruby Rojas traveled to Nicaragua to teach underserved girls in Esteli and Managua through on-the-field softball clinics and conversations about leadership and overall health.

"We really touched on the 'machismo' culture they are surrounded with, the pressures to fit into a stereotype that they do not want to define them and an unmatched passion to make better life decisions than those around them," Mendoza said. "Ruby and I wanted to be that positive Latina role model to show them the confidence to be successful in sport, academics and life is absolutely possible."

As part of the overall initiative, the State Department and espnW teamed to create the Global Women's Sports Mentoring Program last year, in which promising international leaders are paired with leading American women in sports-related fields in the hopes of building sustainable partnerships and support networks, and assembling a specific action plan to promote women and girls worldwide.


"Women and girls have the magic to turn things around in their society and one great way is to do it through softball," Rojas said. "Sports build confidence, leadership, teamwork, and teaches how to overcome obstacles on the field and in life. Every woman and every girl are special. We want to see more Latina leaders in society; be different!"

Here are photos from Mendoza and Rojas' trip:

Nicaragua U.S. Department of StateRuby Rojas speaks to players before one of the softball clinics in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua softballCourtesy of U.S. Department of StateGetting out there to play!

nicaragua softballCourtesy of U.S. Department of StateAlong with giving the women and girls softball tips, Ruby and Jessica also spoke to them about leadership, health and nutrition.

NicaraguaU.S. Department of StateJessica Mendoza gives some tips on how to bunt a softball.

NicaraguaU.S. Department of StateJessica, left, and Ruby speak to reporters on the initiative's importance to the local community.

NicaraguaU.S. Department of StateJessica, left, and Ruby take part in an impromptu pick-up game of catch with the locals.

Nicaragua Softball U.S. Department of StateAs part of the sports diplomacy program, new softball equipment was donated to the local players.

To learn more about the Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative, click here.

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