King Named UNESCO Mentor
DOHA, Qatar - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the world's leading global sport for women, announced on Thursday the naming of Billie Jean King as Global Mentor for Gender Equality, along with the funding of the Women's Sports Foundation newly created Billie Jean King Leadership Internship program.
The appointment of King to the new role brings together the sporting world's leading advocate for equality with the landmark global partnership between UNESCO and the Tour to further gender quality and promote women's leadership in all spheres of society. It also brings together two of the world's leading organizations devoted to furthering equality, in the Women's Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 with a mission to increase opportunity and participation for women and girls in sports, and UNESCO.
As Global Mentor for Gender Equality, King joins Venus Williams, the partnership's global Promoter for Gender Equality, and Tatiana Golovin of France and Zheng Jie of China, regional Promoters of Gender Equality, as core supporters and the player face of the UNESCO-Tour Partnership.
The Billie Jean King Leadership Internship program to be funded by the UNESCO-Tour partnership is the sixth such program to be launched, joining projects in Cameroon, Liberia, Jordan, China and Dominican Republic announced in November 2007. The new program will be run by the Women's Sports Foundation, and will annually provide an opportunity for one young woman to gain experience in the sports industry through an internship at the Women's Sports Foundation, including follow on placement opportunities in the sports business. Women are severely underrepresented in leadership positions in the sports industry, and the program is designed to develop a next generation of female sports leaders.
"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," King said. "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: "Today, we are proud to welcome Billie Jean King into the Hall of Fame of our Partnership and to designate her Global Mentor for Gender Equality. This is 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.' She has done so in exciting and innovative ways, such as through the Women's Sports Foundation, which she founded in 1974, as well as through the GreenSlam initiative, which she founded in 2007 to encourage the sports industry to become more environmentally responsible."
"No one has done more to drive positive change in the area of gender equity in the world of sport than Billie Jean King," said Larry Scott, the Tour's Chairman & CEO. "As founder of the Tour and of the Women's Sports Foundation, and as a role model for women on and off the sporting field, Billie has been a catalyst of social reform and increased opportunity for more than one generation of women leaders. It is great to be able to bring together Billie, a fantastic organization as the Women's Sports Foundation and our UNESCO-Tour partnership in furtherance of a common passion and goal that we all share - equality. It is fitting too that we are able to make this announcement here in Doha at the very first year-end Sony Ericsson Championships to offer equal prize money." "Billie Jean King has been an inspiration for women and girls throughout the world, and a leader in fighting for gender equality and opportunity," said Promoter of Gender Equality Venus Williams. "With Billie's support and the new Women's Sports Foundation project, I know we will be able to continue to up our game in using this partnership to help create the next generation of women leaders."
Since the launch in November 2006 of the landmark global partnership between UNESCO and the Tour to further gender equality and promote women's leadership in all spheres of society, a substantial amount of funds been raised or pledged; a series of programs have been launched and funded; a global TV and print advertising campaign has been developed; Tour events in certain markets such as Linz, Austria and Portoroz, Slovenia have initiated advocacy, awareness and funding raising activities on behalf of the Partnership; and Williams has been joined by Tour stars Golovin and Zheng, and now King.
The programs, which will be supported both through financial contributions and the Partnership's player Promoters of Gender Equality, are designed to create real opportunities for women and girls to assume leadership roles, as well as to raise awareness and promote the goal of gender equality. Programs previously announced and now being implemented include:
- In Liberia, a project that will create a women-only night school program for 1000 girls, and train female teachers to staff the program, in an effort to further equal access to quality primary and secondary education for disadvantaged women in post-conflict Liberia. - In Cameroon, a project that will work to create a group of successful female politicians, business women and athletes who will organize various events and activities in support of womens leadership and gender equality. - In China, a project that will aim to raise the percentage of rural women involved in local affairs and promote a more balanced decision making process. - In the Dominican Republic, a program that will advocate for women's social and political leadership through awareness raising activities and capacity building and training programs. One of these programs will train 80 young women between the ages of 18-28 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.
At the announcement in Doha, King was flanked by Vera Zvonareva; Tour Chairman & CEO Scott; and Hans d'Orville, Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning of UNESCO.