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ESPN’s Jane McManus returns from U.S. State Department exchange trip to Azerbaijan and Georgia

espnW’s Jane McManus attended an Azeri wedding during her travels to Azerbaijani. (Elvin Garayev) reporter and espnW contributor Jane McManus recently traveled to Azerbaijan and Georgia as part of a U.S. State Department exchange trip. During her visit, she met with college students, journalists and sports teams as part of the Department’s ongoing initiative of empowering women in sports across the globe.

Front Row had the opportunity to speak with McManus following her return.

What was the key lesson learned for both you and the students?
I heard a lot of girls ask how they can get more involved in sports, or start a team. There is some cultural resistance, especially in Azerbaijan, but there are those who are working to make opportunities available despite the uphill climb.

How are women in sports or female journalists perceived in Azerbaijan and Georgia?
I met with a newspaper staff in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia and all but four reporters on the 25-person staff were women. Journalism is certainly an acceptable job, but there weren’t a lot of women in sports writing. But in Georgia, there aren’t a lot of teams to cover. The women in Akhaltsikhe wanted to discuss ways of incorporating sports coverage in the paper when there weren’t really high school or college sports in the town.

Have the students heard of ESPN?
Those who had traveled had heard of ESPN, but it isn’t really carried in these countries. Unbelievable, right? People were very curious about how Americans consume sports — especially soccer.

How did you balance your travels with prepping for the NFL Draft?
I have a lot of work to do. I’m working on a few stories leading up to the Draft. I attended the NFL Combine in February as a way to get started, and I’m wrapping up my responsibilities from the trip and shifting to Draft coverage now.

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