Sports: Empowering Women and Girls Through International Exchanges

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 6, 2011

In the lead-up to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the kick-off to the 40th anniversary year of Title IX, the U.S. Department of State launched a series of international soccer exchanges to highlight the value of sports in empowering women and girls.

This initiative builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power diplomacy” to harness the full range of diplomatic tools at our disposal—in this case international soccer exchanges—to advance United States foreign policy goals and foster greater understanding. The initiative also highlights the importance of Title IX, which is a landmark law in the United States, affording equal opportunity for men and women in academics and athletics.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, spearheaded a Women’s World Cup Initiative that brings together international exchanges and sports to empower women and girls. The Women’s World Cup initiative includes:

Sports Visitor Program

Through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Office, 18 teenaged female soccer players and their coaches from Bolivia, Germany, Malaysia, Pakistan,the Palestinian Territories, and South Africa traveled to the United States through the Sports Visitors Program for a 10-day exchange. During this time, the young athletes traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C., where they met with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and played soccer with local teams. The delegation also met with local community organizations that provide sports opportunities for youth with disabilities and mentorships through a soccer and literacy initiative.

Sports Envoy Programs

Partnering with U.S. Soccer, former Women’s National Team players Briana Scurry and Amanda Cromwell traveled in May as Sports Envoys to Germany to lead soccer clinics and engage young audiences in Berlin, Dresden, Wolfsburg, Sinsheim, and Frankfurt. Sports Envoys will travel to Brazil this summer.

Women’s Sports Management

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ International Visitor Leadership Program led a parallel 10-day international exchange program for six sports management professionals. With an emphasis on the administration of women’s and girls’ soccer programs, the program allowed the visitors to exchange ideas and best practices in the management of sports and recreational programs with their American counterparts.

They examined how athletic programs for women and girls promote leadership, teamwork, respect, self awareness and life skills, and how sports and recreation programs can make a positive impact on at-risk and underserved youth.

According to a United Nations’ 2007 report entitled “Women2000—Women, Gender Equality and Sport”— empowering women and girls through sport is an important social and economic empowerment tool.

  • Women and girls acquire new interpersonal networks, develop a sense of identity and access new opportunities allowing them to become more engaged in school and community life;
  • Sports serve as a vehicle to improve women’s and girls’ leadership roles and participation in decision-making;
  • Sports convene people across borders, cultures and belief systems, and can promote greater tolerance and understanding among individuals and communities;
  • Girls’ participation in sports can challenge gender stereotypes and break down entrenched discriminatory attitudes;
  • Sports teams and organizations provide an excellent opportunity to provide information and promote dialogue on the importance of girls’ education.
  • Studies show a direct correlation between girls’ participation in sports and higher education and employment attainment; and that a single year of primary education correlates with a 10 – 20 percent increase in women’s wages later in life; a single year of secondary education results in a 15 – 25 percent increase.

About the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Office:

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Sports United Office leads the U.S. Department of State’s international exchange efforts to bring the global community together through sports. SportsUnited develops international exchanges designed to help underserved youth discover how success in athletics can help give them the skills they need to pursue success in the classroom and beyond. Through the Sports Envoy, Sports Visitor and Sports Grants programs, SportsUnited works to reach out to young athletes, coaches and administrators worldwide with a message of America’s commitment to international understanding, cultural tolerance and mutual respect.

About the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ International Visitor Leadership Program:

Now in its 70th year, the International Visitor Leadership Program is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program connecting current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term programs designed to build mutual understanding on foreign policy issues. Nearly 200,000 distinguished individuals have participated in the program, including more than 320 current and former Chiefs of State and Heads of Government, and thousands of leaders from the public and private sectors.

International Exchanges: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports is part of a yearlong initiative to highlight ways in which the Department of State’s international exchanges empower all of society, especially women and girls.

About the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues:

The Office of Global Women’s Issues is charged with coordinating foreign policy issues and activities of the State Department relating to the political, economic, and social advancement of women around the world. Recognizing that the full and equal participation of women in all spheres of society is critical to democratic development and global stability and must be predicated on the protection of women’s rights, the Office is responsible for mobilizing concrete support through initiatives and programs for women’s economic, political, social and legal empowerment, access to education and health care, combating violence against women and girls in all its forms, and ensuring that women’s rights are fully integrated into development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.

For more information, please log on to the website of the Department of State’s SportsUnited Office at

PRN: 2011/910