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CSPS Celebrates “Wonder Women” Using Sport to Impact the World

For the sixth year, UT’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society has joined with the US Department of State and espnW to organize one of the world’s leading mentorship programs for women in sports.

The center, a cooperative partner for the US Department of State’s Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) since 2012, selected 17 women from 15 countries, including first-time participant countries Palestine, Morocco, Bolivia, and Belgium, to participate in the five-week exchange program hosted in Washington, DC.

“When you work with the best and the brightest women in the world, every year only becomes more spectacular,” said Ashleigh Huffman, the center’s co-founder and assistant director. “As the sisterhood grows and we welcome more game changers into the family, the program transcends the five-week experience and becomes a continuation of a movement.”

Before the start of this program, 113 leaders from 63 countries have participated in the GSMP, either in women’s empowerment or disability sport exchanges. These leaders have returned home to launch their own nongovernmental organizations, serve in leadership positions in their governments and national sports federations, and win numerous awards for service.

“We are amazed and inspired by the work of GSMP alumnae all over the world,” said Hillyer. “The global footprint of this program can literally be felt in hundreds of communities. For that, we thank not only the international delegates who have carried the torch and faced the challenges head on, but the US Department of State for making the empowerment of girls and women a central part of their mission.”

These are the women who make up the 2017 GSMP: Empower Women through Sports class:

  • Agnes Baluka Masajja (Uganda), mentored at UConn, is a Ugandan educator and head of the education commission for the Association of Ugandan University Sports. She seeks use the intersection of sports, education and business to empower generations of Ugandan girls.
  • Aline Silva (Brazil), mentored at Google, is the first Brazilian to medal at the world championships of wrestling. She wants to use her story and platform to turn millions of girls in her country into empowered warriors.
  • Alejandra Rodriguez-Larrain (Peru), mentored at Under Armour, is a marathoner and CEO of Peru Runners, an organization that uses running to impact thousands of Peruvians from all backgrounds.
  • Carole Ponchon (France), mentored at Women’s Sports Foundation, is a projects manager for the European Observatoire of Sports and Employment who is looking to elevate the importance of sport for empowering women in France.
  • Caroline Lembe (Belgium), mentored at Eli Lilly & Company, is the co-founder of Siki-Lab and an assistant boxing trainer in Belgium. She wants to show sports belongs to all people, regardless of race, age, background or gender.
  • Carmen Pozo Rios (Bolivia), mentored at Saatchi Los Angeles, is the first female sports journalist in Bolivia. She and a colleague launched a magazine and soccer academy called Las Superpoderosas that is teaching girls how to become “super powerful” women through sports.
  • Chisom Mbonu-Ezeoke (Nigeria), mentored at Fox Sports, is a pioneering Nigerian sports journalist who is among the most prominent female voices covering professional sports in her country.
  • Claudia Contreras (Venezuela), mentored at Gatorade, is a Venezuelan former national rugby captain and co-founder of Deporte para el Desarrollo, an organization that impacts Venezuela’s underserved communities by developing and empowering sports coaches.
  • Elvira Dushku (Kosovo), mentored at San Antonio Spurs, is a former Kosovan basketball player and the first female secretary general of the Basketball Federation of Kosovo. She wants to give girls across her country the chance to find empowerment through basketball.
  • Immaculate Chocho Nalwadda (Uganda), mentored at Big East, is a Ugandan political leader, sportswoman, and gender advocate. She works with the Uganda Olympic Committee, and seeks to use sports to change the lives of thousands of girls and women.
  • Malak Hasan (Palestine), mentored at ESPN, is a freelance journalist and the first female secretary general of the Palestinian Boxing Federation. She uses sport as an outlet to advocate for gender equality and inclusion.
  • Megha Vora (India), mentored at Google, has opened women’s self-defense centers across India. She is teaching Indian women how to fight back against violence and harassment, and seeks to open 1,000 centers to make India a more peaceful nation.
  • Minjei Jeon (South Korea), mentored at NCAA, is the deputy manager of school sports for the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee. She wants to build a Korea where sport and education are bonded together for making a positive impact in the lives of students.
  • Naoual Zaaraoui (Morocco), mentored at PGA of America, is a track and field coach with the Royal Moroccan Athletics Federation, and seeks to use sport to provide women with professional skills that will allow them to pursue successful careers.
  • Po-Chun Liu (Taiwan), mentored at NHL, is the first female baseball umpire in Taiwan and a prominent advocate more inclusive sports environment for women.
  • Sangeetha Manoharan (India), mentored at Burton Snowboards,  is an Indian ultimate frisbee player and coach for The Quad. She has traveled the world representing her country, and now dreams of using the sport to empower Indian girls to reach their full potential.
  • Xinyi Hua (China), mentored at ESPN, is a Chinese sports journalist and one of the most prominent women covering sports in her country. She believes sport is about storytelling and more than just competition. She wants to use her platform to bring more Chinese women into the sports media profession.

The program began on September 23 and concludes in Washington, DC, on October 31. To follow along on social media, use the hashtags #GSMP2017 and #EmpowerWomen on FacebookTwitterFlickr, and Instagram.