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Women’s sports pioneer Billie Jean King becomes gender equality mentor for UNESCO

Women’s sports pioneer Billie Jean King becomes gender equality mentor for UNESCO

The women’s sports pioneer and former Grand Slam tennis champion Billie Jean King was appointed today as a Global Mentor for Gender Equality by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Ms. King was named to the post at a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, where the Sony Ericsson-sponsored Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is currently holding its year-end championships. UNESCO and the WTA already have a formal partnership in place to try to promote women’s leadership.

As part of the appointment, the Billie Jean King Leadership Internship programme will be set up to give young women experience in the sports industry through internships at the Women’s Sports Foundation and then job placement opportunities in the sports business.

In a statement issued today by UNESCO, Ms. King called the partnership “a strong step” in efforts to improve gender equity issues in sports.

“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,” she said.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura released a video message in which he said Ms. King had been chosen “in recognition of her tremendous career, which has inspired millions and changed the lives of young women across the world.”

Aside from the 12 Grand Slam singles titles she won between 1966 and 1975, Ms. King has been a vocal advocate against sexism in sports. She also founded the WTA and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

The UNESCO-WTA partnership, launched in 2006, already funds projects in Cameroon, China, the Dominican Republic, Jordan and Liberia aimed at improving the leadership capabilities and opportunities for women and girls.