Harare, March 19, 2012: The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) SportsUnited division, in partnership with the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), announced a basketball exchange program that will send four Zimbabweans — three teenage girls and a coach — to the United States for twelve-days of dynamic activities as part of the new Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative.
The four are Mutsa Chiromo (a student at Arundel High); Francisca Sekete (Queen Elizabeth’s High); Rukudzo Matsekwa (Dominican Convent, Bulawayo) and Belia Zibowa – head coach of Zimbabwe Giants, the national women’s basketball team. They will be part of a group of 18 teenage girls and six female coaches from six different countries including Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Thailand, Tunisia and Ukraine. They will visit Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado.
“Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power,” embracing the full range of diplomatic tools—in this case, basketball—to bring individuals together to foster greater understanding,” said Michael Brooke, Public Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Embassy. “The Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative shows foreign participants the U.S. through the lens of women’s sport, while introducing Americans to different cultures. We hope the visit will inspire more women and girls to become involved in sports and experience the benefits of participation: improved health, greater self-esteem, and greater academic success.”
For the first four days of the program, the 24 participants will share their own experiences and learn about women’s sports in the U.S. through a combination of teambuilding activities, basketball clinics, and sessions on sports psychology and nutrition. They will tour the White House before travelling to Denver, Colorado to take part in community initiatives and events related to the NCAA Women’s Final Four Championship. During this high-profile week of games, the Empowering Women and Girls through Sports visitors will train with female basketball coaches and student-athletes; learn about Title IX and its challenges from the White House Project; play basketball with athletes with disabilities; and travel to Colorado Springs to see the Olympic Training Center. The program concludes with their attendance at the Women’s Final Four Championship Game in the Pepsi Center.
SportsUnited is the sports exchange program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Athletes and coaches from a range of sports are chosen to conduct clinics, visit schools, and engage with youth overseas on the importance of education, positive health practices, and respect for diversity.