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Africa

IOC Young Leaders: Ouname Mhotsha is inspiring the next generation of sportswomen in Africa

todayMarch 18, 2024 5

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IOC Young Leaders Ouname Mhotsha is inspiring the next generation of sportswomen in Africa

 

As one of the few girls growing up in the world of African golf, Ouname Mhotsha would have liked to have female peers and mentors through her early career. Now, thanks to the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Young Leaders programme, Ouname is launching the Thanya Monana Projects, aiming to give young girls the opportunity and support needed to flourish in golf.

Ouname grew up in Botswana in a sports-loving family who were particularly passionate about golf. Her father encouraged his children to pick up the sport, signing them up for local golf tournaments. Ouname fell in love with the sport thanks to a personal drive to compete with her younger brother, who quickly started doing well in competitions.

At the age of 12, she had no other option but to compete in adult tournaments due to the lack of girls available to take part in junior competitions, and her first tournament went far better than expected.

“After day one I thought I had done quite well, but on the second day, I played brilliantly and actually won!” Ouname recalled. “It was incredible, and inspired me to look beyond Botswana to see what other golfers my age were doing in their countries. What I found was people taking golf seriously and trying to go pro.”

Isolation as a woman in golf

Participating in adult tournaments, however, meant that Ouname often felt isolated in the sport. Following her win, she wanted to go further, but had no one to give her the advice she needed to take the next steps.

“My career was difficult initially,” she said. “I wished that there was just one person – not even from my country, but from the whole continent of Africa – who I could look at and say, ‘They are a professional golfer. If they can do it, so can I.’”

Despite these obstacles, Ouname started competing for the Botswana national team at the age of 16 and, when travelling to compete in other countries, met other athletes based in the USA who told her about the college career pathway. This led to her attending university in the USA, where she completed her bachelor’s in agriculture economics and master’s in forest resources, and to professional golf.

Today, Ouname combines her golf career with her other role as a Golf and Tournament Operations Coordinator at Cedar Crest Golf Club in Texas, USA.

Guiding others along the way

Ouname has never forgotten how difficult it was to find her way in golf, and these experiences inspired her to create an informal mentorship group for young female athletes in Africa.

A huge part of what I’m doing is trying to be available to the girls in my country and in Africa as a whole because I know that there’s still a lot to do. I started small, just sending a text to an up-and-coming girl if they won a tournament, congratulating them, asking if they needed anything from me.

Ouname Mhotsha – IOC Young Leader 2023-2026

“Then that developed naturally into a mentorship group where we talk about golf, its challenges and how to avoid mistakes. I didn’t know at that point that this was going to be my purpose and a huge part of who I am.”

This purpose led Ouname to apply for the IOC Young Leaders Programme for the 2023-2026 edition. Supported by founding partner Panasonic, this initiative provides budding social entrepreneurs with mentorship, learning opportunities and seed funding to launch projects that leverage the power of sport to make a positive difference in their communities.

Thanks to the support of the programme, Ouname founded the Thanya Monana Projects, which are due to launch this year.

“It was a perfect match. I wanted the mentoring group to have a long-term impact, not just to be a one-time project,” she said.

“The programme helps me with this in so many ways, whether that’s through financial support in the way of seed funding, mentorship, providing resources or meeting experts.

The best part for me, though, has been meeting like-minded young people. Being able to hear about their projects, the challenges they face, their excitement – it’s a real community and makes me feel that I’m not alone in this.

Ouname Mhotsha – IOC Young Leader 2023-2026

Addressing inequalities through sport

The Thanya Monana Projects will organise a series of sports and youth development initiatives that use golf to address inequalities and economic challenges faced by communities in Botswana and among women. These will include a more formal mentorship group, golf course activation to inform the general population of Botswana about the facilities available to them, pop-up events where young people can enjoy free golf lessons, and the launch of Botswana Golf Week, which will give people the opportunity to try out golf.

Ouname is also looking to host an African girls’ championship, inviting the most talented girls from the continent to compete against their contemporaries, with college coaches in attendance to give the best players the chance to be recruited for the college scholarship pathway.

“I want to create a support system for girls to play golf,” she said. “I want girls and their families who might not know anything about golf to know that there is this project where they can get information. A youth-led organisation would be able to do that and be empowering.

Golf is one of 28 gender-equal sports at Paris 2024

As the first Games to achieve gender parity on the field of play, with the same number of competing female and male athletes, the Olympic Games Paris 2024 will mark an important milestone in the ongoing efforts to address the gender gap in the Olympic Movement. Golf will be one of 28 fully gender-equal sports on the programme at Paris 2024.

“I think Paris 2024 will be amazing,” Ouname said. “Just the idea of having an equal number of men and women being able to participate there increases the chances of representation for women and underrepresented communities. It means there’s more visibility and it increases the belief that sport can be a realistic career pathway.

“The Olympics are a universal event where our differences bring us together. It is going to help a lot with gender equality and projects like ours that are trying to increase women’s participation in the sport.”

IOC Young Leaders Programme contributing to Olympism 365 days a year

Launched in 2016, the IOC Young Leaders Programme empowers young people to leverage the power of sport to make a positive difference in their communities. The Programme contributes to Olympism365, the IOC’s approach to using sport as an important enabler of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and specifically to Olympism365’s Innovation portfolio, which aims to identify, sustain and scale innovative sports-based approaches that deliver concrete impact in targeted communities.

So far, with the support of the IOC, these inspiring young people have delivered over 160 sport-led projects in communities across the globe, promoting education and livelihoods, equality and inclusion, health, peace building and sustainability, directly benefitting more than 37,000 people.

Learn more about the IOC Young Leaders Programme and the Olympism365 strategy.

Worldwide Olympic Partner Panasonic’s continued support

The IOC Young Leaders Programme has been supported by Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Partner Panasonic since 2017, and this will continue through to 2024. Panasonic, as the Programme’s founding partner, is committed to supporting the IOC Young Leaders through various initiatives, for example providing its creative and technological expertise, along with its network of influencers and ambassadors, to inspire the Young Leaders and equip them with the skills and tools they need to enhance their projects.

Find out more about Panasonic’s support for the programme and sign up for the “IOC Young Leaders in Action” newsletter to get the latest updates.

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