Basketball Mtaani: Empowering Kenyan Women Through Sports and Mentorship
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women play basketball
The Basketball Mtaani initiative in Nairobi aims to empower women and create positive change.

Sports have an incredible power to transcend cultural barriers, bringing people together and uplifting communities. It's not just about personal growth for athletes; it's about creating positive change on a larger scale. Recognizing this, nations are increasingly using sports diplomacy to strengthen relations and foster cooperation. One such initiative is the recently launched "Basketball Mtaani" program in Kenya, spearheaded by Grace Kiraguri and the Public Diplomacy section of the U.S Embassy in Nairobi. The program demonstrates the interplay between Sports, development and diplomacy. The initiative sets the mood for celebration we celebrate U.S Kenya Partnership at 60 years.

women play basketball

Basketball Mtaani brings together 30 female basketball players aged 18-25 from 5 different universities, uniting them through the power of sports. The initiative is a unique blend of sports and mentorship, offering participants both on-court training and structured classroom sessions. Beyond the basketball court, this initiative aims to instill life skills, champion positive change, and create opportunities for women to excel both athletically and personally.

The choice of basketball was driven by the fact that it holds a special place in the hearts of many young Kenyans. Its this popularity that inspired us to launch a program using the sport, modeled along the concept of Global Sports Mentoring Program. The concept borrows heavily the basic fundamentals of structured mentorship dubbed “SmartPower” to empower women. The US State Department believes in the evidence-based approach of programs like these, which have shown that women and girls who play sports are more likely to succeed both on and off the field.

The heart of any sports program lies in the bonds it creates—friendships, camaraderie, and fun. When we launched Basketball Mtaani, I wondered if the players from different universities would gel together. To my delight, the blending and bonding among them have been remarkable. Sports have a unique ability to break down barriers and unite people from diverse backgrounds, as evidenced by the camaraderie among our youthful players. The interaction of the athletes with the selected female coaches too who are from diverse background, is a testament of the salient values that sports instils over time which are respect and discipline. The relationships built during this six-month program will extend beyond the program life. And therein lies the ultimate definition of sports for development. It extends beyond the courts.

women play basketball

The mentorship sessions, held separately from the courts, offer an opportunity to impart crucial life skills to these young women. Their enthusiasm for learning is palpable, and they eagerly absorb knowledge that will benefit them both during and after their studies. Our tailored curriculum covers topics such as leadership, communication skills, emotional intelligence, personal branding and the business of sports amongst others. Through platforms like Google Classroom, a learning management system, we deliver training, ensure accessibility and high level of engagement, with practical assignments to reinforce the digital learning experience.

As a beneficiary of the Global Sports Mentoring Program, I've experienced firsthand the positive impact of exchange programs. Now, through Basketball Mtaani, I aim to localize that impact and empower young women in the basketball sorority across Kenya. This program has the potential to bring about significant benefits for its participants and society as a whole, fostering a new generation of empowered female athletes and leaders.

About the author

Grace Kiraguri is an alumna of the Global Sports Mentoring Program.

She attended the inaugural program in 2012 and has continued working closely with the program implementers, The Center for Peace, Sports and Society as well as the local Embassy office in Nairobi. She is a Sports Entrepreneur and a Champion for Women Empowerment

This article was funded by a grant from The United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

This article has been edited by the sportanddev Operating Team.



Sustainable Development Goals
5 - Gender equality
Target Group
Girls and women

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