NGWSD: Reaching out to girls in Nicaragua

"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:

U.S. Department of State

Ruby Rojas speaks to players before one of the softball clinics in Nicaragua.

Courtesy of U.S. Department of State

Getting out there to play!

Courtesy of U.S. Department of State

Along with giving the women and girls softball tips, Ruby and Jessica also spoke to them about leadership, health and nutrition.

U.S. Department of State

Jessica Mendoza gives some tips on how to bunt a softball.

U.S. Department of State

Jessica, left, and Ruby speak to reporters on the initiative's importance to the local community.

U.S. Department of State

Jessica, left, and Ruby take part in an impromptu pick-up game of catch with the locals.

U.S. Department of State

As 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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