U.S. Olympians Jessica Mendoza and Ruby Rojas traveled to Nicaragua today to participate in a week-long initiative to empower women and girls through sports. For the first time, the U.S. State Department—in partnership with USA Softball and the Nicaraguan Softball Federation (FENISOFT)—will hold a series of softball clinics for Nicaraguan girls ages 14-25.
The clinics, which run through Feb. 5, will be held in Estelí and Managua and will involve young players and members of the Nicaraguan softball team.
Mendoza and Rojas will lead clinics for athletes and coaches as well as spearhead discussions on leadership and the importance of health and wellness, according to a State Department release.
Mendoza, who serves on the U.S. State Department’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports, is a two-time Olympian, world softball champion, and inductee in the Latin Sports Hall of Fame. She has also served as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Rojas, a former softball player for the University of Virginia and a member of the Venezuelan National Softball team, is the current softball coach at Mount San Antonio College.
The Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative aims to increase the number of women and girls involved in sports and to share the lessons of Title IX – the landmark legislation in the U.S. that afforded women equality and opportunity through sports – worldwide. It is comprised of three pillars: sports envoys (U.S. athletes who travel overseas); sports visitors (youth athletes and coaches who travel to the U.S.); and the cornerstone of the initiative, the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program.
This initiative builds on outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power,” which embraces the full range of diplomatic tools—in this case, sports—to empower women and girls and foster greater understanding.