State Department launches Women's World Cup Initiative

On the heels of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany and along with the kick-off of the 40th anniversary year of Title IX, the Department of State recently launched its Women's World Cup Initiative "Empowering Women and Girls through Sports." The initiative is led by the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and co-sponsored by the Office of Global Women's Issues as well as the SportsUnited Office, which leads the State Department's international exchange efforts to bring people from all over the globe together through sports, for example through "Soccer Diplomacy."

This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on the occasion of the launch of the new initiative that specifically aims at empowering women and girls by bringing together international exchanges and sports.

In her remarks, Clinton praised the power of sports exchanges:

"I'm very proud of our visitor exchanges, including our teenage athletes, who have been introduced from across the world. ... Actually, our sports exchanges are the most popular exchanges we do. And when I go to other countries around the world and we talk about what kind of exchanges that people are looking for, very often a leader will say, how about a sports exchange? And we want to do more and more of that."

The Women's World Cup Initiative includes a Sports Visitor Program that brings young female soccer players to the U.S. for a 10-day exchange, a Sports Envoy Program through which, in cooperation with U.S. Soccer, former Women's National Team players travel abroad as Sports Envoys, as well as a 10-day international exchange program for sport management professionals led by ECA's International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

According to the State Department's website, the Women's World Cup Initiative is a part of a yearlong initiative designed to highlight ways in which the Department's international exchanges empower society, women and girls in particular. It builds on Secretary Clinton's vision of "smart power diplomacy" and further underlines the importance of Title IX, a land landmark U.S. law that affords equal opportunity for men and women in academics and athletics.

UPDATE: Both the New York Times' and the Huffington Post's Sports sections reported about the new initative. In the Huffington Post, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock said about the power of soccer:

"As long as you've got girls and a ball you can play it. It shows girls at a very young age how to be part of a team and work together, which directly translates later in life to being a team player in school, in a job or in a marriage."