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Basketball Mtaani: Encouraging Kenyan Women through Sports and Guidance

The Nairobi-based Basketball Mtaani movement seeks to uplift women and bring about constructive change.

Sports have the amazing ability to bridge cultural divides, uniting individuals and improving communities. It’s about bringing about positive change on a bigger scale for athletes, not only about their own personal development. Acknowledging this, countries are employing sports diplomacy more frequently to improve ties and promote collaboration. One such project is the recently started “Basketball Mtaani” program in Kenya, which is being led by Grace Kiraguri and the US Embassy’s Public Diplomacy division in Nairobi. The show illustrates how sports, development, and diplomacy interact. The celebration of the U.S. Kenya Partnership’s 60th anniversary is heightened by this project.

Through the force of athletics, Basketball Mtaani unites thirty female basketball players, ages 18 to 25, from five different colleges. The program offers participants both structured classroom sessions and on-court instruction, making it a unique fusion of mentorship and sports. This program seeks to foster positive transformation, impart life skills, and give women the chance to succeed in both their personal and athletic lives outside of the basketball court.

The fact that basketball is so beloved by many young Kenyans served as the impetus for the decision. We created a program utilizing the sport, based on the Global Sports Mentoring Program, because of its popularity. The idea, known as “SmartPower,” substantially appropriates the foundational ideas of organized mentoring to empower women. The US State Department supports evidence-based initiatives such as these, as they demonstrate that female athletes have a higher chance of success on and off the field.

Any sports program’s greatest asset is the relationships it forges—friendships, pleasure, and camaraderie. I had doubts about whether the players from other institutions would get along when we first started Basketball Mtaani. The way they’ve bonded and blended together has amazed me. The friendship among our young players demonstrates the special power of sports to dissolve barriers and bring people together from all backgrounds.

The athletes’ interactions with the chosen female instructors, who come from a variety of backgrounds, are evidence of the important values—discipline and respect—that sports gradually instill. The connections made during this six-month program will last long after it ends. And there you have it—the perfect explanation of sports for growth. It is not limited to the courts.

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