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Billie Jean King named “Global Mentor for Gender Equality”

06 November 2008

Billie Jean King named “Global Mentor for Gender Equality”
  • © Stanford University. All Rights Reserved
  • Billie Jean King

The Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura today named U.S. tennis legend Billie Jean King “Global Mentor for Gender Equality” within the framework of UNESCO’s partnership with the Sony Ericsson Women’s Tennis Association Tour. The naming ceremony took place in Doha, capital of Qatar, with Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning Hans d’Orville representing the Director-General of UNESCO.

The Billie Jean King Leadership Internship programme, to be funded by the UNESCO/Sony Ericsson WTA Tour partnership, will join other projects funded by the partnership in Cameroon, Liberia, Jordan, China and Dominican Republic. Every year, the new programme, which is run by the Women’s Sports Foundation, will provide an opportunity for one young woman to gain experience in the sports industry through an internship at the Women’s Sports Foundation. At the end of the year, interns will benefit from a follow on placement opportunity in the sports business. The purpose of this initiative is to develop the next generation of female sports leaders as women are severely underrepresented in leadership positions in the sports industry.

“This partnership is a strong step in an effort to improve gender equity issues on many levels and I am honored to be part of this team,” said Billie Jean King. “There is so much work still to be done when it comes to breaking down barriers to opportunity for women and girls throughout the world, and one of the most effective things we can do is combine our resources, energies and expertise. UNESCO, the Women’s Sports Foundation and the players of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour together can be a potent force for social change.”

In a video message,* UNESCO’s Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, said that the naming of Ms King as Global Mentor for Gender Equality came “in recognition of her tremendous career, which has inspired millions and changed the lives of young women across the world. Her designation also acknowledges the mentoring she has provided to generations of tennis players who have followed in her footsteps. Ms King has achieved her goal of using sports as a means for social change,” he added.
Mr Matsuura went on to praise as “exciting and innovative” Ms King’s initiatives in creating the Women’s Sports Foundation, in 1974 and the GreenSlam initiative, in 2007, the former to improve the standing of women in sport, the latter to encourage the sports industry to become more environmentally responsible.
As Global Mentor for Gender Equality, Ms King joins fellow American Venus Williams, Tatiana Golovin of France and Zheng Jie of China, all of whom have been named Promoters of Gender Equality. They are the core supporters of the UNESCO-Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Partnership which was launched in 2006 to further gender equality and promote women’s leadership in all spheres of society.

Programmes being implemented under the partnership include: In Liberia, a project to create a women-only night school program for 1000 girls. It is also to train female teachers to improve equal access to quality primary and secondary education for disadvantaged women in post-conflict Liberia. Another project in Cameroon will bring together a group of successful female politicians, business women and athletes who will organize various events and activities in support of women’s leadership and gender equality. In China, a project aims to raise the percentage of rural women involved in local affairs and promote a more balanced decision making process. In the Dominican Republic, awareness-raising, capacity building, and training activities provide advocacy for women’s social and political leadership. One such project will train 80 women aged 18 to 28 in participative leadership skills to encourage them to rise to top positions in civil society and political organizations. In Jordan, a legal rights awareness program consisting of 24 legal training workshops throughout the country, will be designed to empower women to know their rights.

  • Source:Press Release No.2008-113
  • 06-11-2008
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