Champion for Gender Equality Creates Sporting Opportunities for Women in Zanzibar

On the East African island of Zanzibar, where traditional gender norms present significant obstacles for women and girls in sport, there’s a beacon of hope named Fatma Said Ahmed. Restricted from playing sports in school, Fatma developed an interest in basketball at the age of 18, and through her love of the game, made it her life’s mission to raise awareness of girls’ right to play and participate in sports. She developed programs exclusively using sport to address some of the issues plaguing her community. Fatma also leveraged her role as a UNESCO volunteer and member of the Zanzibar Youth Forum to educate female students on the academic and physiological benefits of physical activity. After receiving a degree in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, & Microbiology from St. Philomena’s College in India, Fatma returned home and developed her Girls Inclusion in Sports Campaign. Through the program, she conducted sport for development sessions in different schools across the island to make female sports participation socially acceptable throughout Zanzibar.

In 2016, Fatma was selected for the first class of Michael Johnson Young Leaders (MJYL), a nonprofit organization working to equip underprivileged youth from around the world with the skills and resources to achieve a better future through sport, leadership, and community development. She is the only program alumna promoted from an ambassador to a mentor and finally employed as the Young Leaders Manager. Fatma manages all the selected MJYL participants from across the globe, and is tasked with mentoring, monitoring and evaluating their work. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Development for Humanity Organization where she works on breaking socio-cultural barriers in Zanzibar and aims to create safe spaces for young girls. Fatma’s next mission is to open a sports and leadership academy that will help create new opportunities and empower more young girls and women to make their own choices and develop confident voices.

Through her GSMP experience, Fatma hopes to advance her knowledge on the importance of sports participation for women and girls while increasing her creativity in designing sports and leadership programs. For GSMP: Empowering Women through Sports 2021, Fatma will be mentored by Dr. Laura Burton, Professor of Sport Management and Danielle DeRosa, Clinical Instructor, Sport Management at the University of Connecticut, and their team in Storrs, Connecticut.

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