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Olympism in Action Forum

#UnitedBy empowering girls to success - Samantha Miyanda

Zambia’s Samantha Miyanda participated in the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games as a Young Ambassador. Since then, she has started a girls’ mentoring programme with the help of the IOC’s Young Change-Maker+ Programme, empowering girls in her native country through sport and leadership education. Miyanda will be speaking about her experience with social entrepreneurship through sport at the Olympism in Action Forum.


In the run-up to the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires (5-6 October 2018), we looked at groups and individuals who, inspired by the power of sport to contribute to a better world, have used their initiative to organise projects and programmes to effect change at all levels.

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Growing up in Zambia, Samantha Miyanda had limited access to competitive sports. When she joined her first football team at the age of 18, she had no idea that participating would lead to not only a new passion, but an entire career revolving around sport. 

“I learned a lot when I started to play football,” she says. “I grew up loving sport, but I couldn’t play competitively because we had no facilities around where I lived. When the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) was opened in Lusaka, Zambia, I saw an opportunity to fulfil my dream of playing football. Joining the team gave me confidence as an athlete and a peer leader and educator, and it made me ambitious and goal-oriented.” 

Miyanda’s newfound love of sport led her to apply to represent Zambia as a Young Change-Maker at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). Attending the YOG showed Miyanda the importance of the Olympic Movement and inspired her to continue working with young athletes in Zambia – especially girls.  

“Going to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing as a Young Change-Maker taught me the Olympic values: respect, friendship and excellence. Having been around the OYDC I knew what they were, but at the YOG I saw the values in practice. At the competitions, I saw how every athlete wanted to attain excellence each time they played. During the competition, each team is trying to be the best. But after the competition, they would come together and just act like friends. The friendship was there no matter what the results were.”  

When Miyanda returned to Zambia, she took what she learned and turned her experiences into a girls’ mentoring and athletic programme as a Young Change-Maker+ project. The programme invited high-profile women from the sporting world to serve as mentors for young female leaders. In weekly organised meetings, mentor and mentees discussed topics critical to leadership and empowerment, like goal-setting, discipline and focus.

As part of the curriculum, the young leaders were also trained as mentors so they could return to their communities and work with other girls, continuing the next phase of the programme and creating a cycle of female empowerment and leadership. In the project’s first year, seven mentors and 20 girls participated, the mentees reporting an increase in their self-confidence and a greater understanding of how to set goals in order to reach their dreams.

We need to create an environment in which women can freely contribute to sport by putting an end to the traditional mentality of it being a men-only field. Samantha Miyanda

The idea for the programme came from Miyanda's own experience with mentorship. Much of what she knows comes from other female leaders in Zambian sport, and Miyanda says that she would have not been able to get the project off the ground without their help.  

“So much of my mindset comes from the women who are mentors in my programme,” Miyanda says. “Bessie Chelemu, the National Director of Sport, Brenda Chipande, the Executive Director of the Zambian National Olympic Committee, and Enala Phiri, the head coach of the women’s football team, among others. They help all of us be better communicators and better leaders, and show us how to work towards our academic and professional goals. They’ve taught me about ambition, goal-setting and leadership.” 

Miyanda hopes to use these skills to be a good role model for girls, and to pass on some of the things that she has learned through the programme. Because sport attracts a huge number of young people, Miyanda sees her project as a great opportunity for education. In addition to pairing girls with mentors, the programme also includes seminars, which teach girls about the Olympic values, nutrition, financial literacy, HIV/AIDS prevention and leadership, as well as professional development and coach training.  

Joining the team gave me confidence as an athlete and a peer leader and educator, and it made me ambitious and goal-oriented. Samantha Miyanda

Through her own experience, Miyanda wants to show girls that traditional gender barriers can be broken and a career in sport is possible. Miyanda never dreamed that she would have a career in sport, but now, in addition to her Young Change-Maker+ project, she will be participating in an internship at the Ministry of Sport after she graduates from university. Miyanda reasons that with more exposure to athletics, the more likely it is that girls will excel in sports-related fields, like coaching, managing or administration.  

“We need to create an environment in which women can freely contribute to sport by putting an end to the traditional mentality of it being a men-only field,” she says. “We need the chance to prove to ourselves and prove to the world that we women can make it if we’re given the equal opportunities that are given to the men. Sport brings people together and bring equality, and an inclusive world is a better world.” 

The Young Change-Makers+ (YCM+) Programme, now in its fifth cycle, invites National Olympic Committees to nominate inspiring young people aged 20-25 to serve as role models for their athletes and ensure they get the most out of their YOG experience. The YCMs are tasked with guiding the athletes through the Athlete Education Programme, encouraging them to be open to cultural exchanges, and introducing them to the Olympic values and all the movement stands for so they too can return home as ambassadors of the rings. YCMs are also invited to apply for seed funding to deliver their own social projects leveraging sport to address an issue in their community. The YCM+ Programme – which is supported by Panasonic – has so far seen 19 YCMs deliver 28 projects across 17 countries, impacting over 9,000 individual participants.

Learn more about the Youth Olympic Games and the Young Change-Makers+ Programme.

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