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U.S. Department of State and espnW complete second year of Global Sports Mentoring Program

The U.S. Department of State and espnW recently joined forces for the second year of their Global Sports Mentoring Program. The program was created in 2012 to support the United States’ global commitment to advance the rights and participation of women and girls around the world, with sports as the vehicle creating greater opportunity.

For four weeks throughout September, American female executives worked side-by-side with emerging female leaders (ages 25-40) from around the world, sharing valuable business and leadership skills. During their time together, the mentors assisted the emerging leaders in the creation of strategic action plans that will be used to create specific sports opportunities for underserved women and girls when they return home.

(L-R) Lori, Barbara, Fatima, Jodi
(L-R) Lori LeBas, Barbara Kokonya, Fatima Saleem and Jodi Markley on the ESPN campus green.

“espnW is proud to have continued our collaboration with the U.S. Department of State as we advance the Global Sports Mentoring Program,” said espnW Vice President Laura Gentile. “The program truly empowers women and girls through sports, an objective of utmost importance to espnW.”

This year, espnW sponsored two women as part of the Global Sports Mentoring Program: Barbara Kokonya from Kenya and Fatima Saleem from Pakistan.

About Barbara:
As a professional in public relations, Barbara never dreamed of working in the sports industry. Although she loved playing sports as a child, sports administration careers for women were almost non-existent.

“I fell into a sport career by total accident while working for a major PR firm,” she said. “One day, the company assigned me to do PR for the Kenya Cricket Association. My director gave me the cricket account to handle, but told me it was small fish.

“Well, that small fish has been the greatest experience of my life,” she said. “It changed my focus. I didn’t plan to go into sport, but it has been the best thing that has happened to me.”

ESPN Senior VP, Strategy & Business Operations, Lori LeBas, acted as Barbara’s mentor and had this to say about the experience: “I always learn as much from the mentee as I hope the mentee learns from me as the mentor,” she said. “Barbara was no exception. She was a wonderful match for me.

“We share a similar style: We appear reserved, yet are always thinking and listening,” she said. “We laughed a lot, and while we were serious about focusing on her project, we did not exclusively talk about work. I very much enjoyed getting to know her and about her and sharing my life with her. I look forward to catching up with her in Nairobi someday soon, and in the meantime we are going to keep this relationship going via email and Skype.”

About Fatima:
Fatima was born to deliver the news. From an early age, she understood the power of information and the ways information shaped public perception. Fatima’s position as one of the only female sports journalists in Karachi provides a unique perspective on sports news.

“My vocation as a sports journalist combines two distinct passions of my life, the power of information and my love of sports,” she said. “I joined the world of electronic media in Pakistan in its infancy. In a country where people were finally able to receive a narrative other than that espoused by the government, everyone wanted to know the news and I wanted to be there to help them receive it.”

ESPN Senior VP, Operations Jodi Markley had the opportunity to mentor Fatima over the last several weeks. Watch the video above as she describes the experience.

Video produced by Dave Williams

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