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Maya Monroe: Using Basketball as a Means to Promote Gender Equality

Maya Monroe: Using Basketball as a Means to Promote Gender Equality

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hi, Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Maya Monroe, the Sports Social Impact of Soaring Grounds Ghana-L.E.T.S. EmpowHER (literacy, economics, technology, and sports).

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Maya! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Soaring Grounds Ghana-L.E.T.S. EmpowHER?

Maya: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Basketball is the only sport that since its creation has been completely inclusive and diverse. Recognizing the transformative power of it, we use the game of basketball to empower and promote gender equality, build self-confidence, and foster skills among women and girls. By providing access to sports programs, mentorship, and support networks, we aim to create an inclusive and empowering environment where women and girls can thrive. In doing so, we provide communities with a host of social service programs including those impacting, health, education, and socio-economic advancement.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Maya: From the day Lurabelle Tennyson Green (my grandmother) arrived in America, she “reached back”, helping so many generations of her family and friends share in her American dream. She instilled the importance of education; what’s in your head can never be taken away, and community service. She would say, “you’ll earn one more tomorrow by the good you do today”, and encouraged to be a voice for those who have no voice.  My father, whose work ethic propelled him to the Hall of Fame, preaches “opportunity doth knock at every door, but opportunity has never been known to pick a lock.” This means, people will give you chances in life, but it is what you do with them that matters. You are the architect of your own destiny.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Maya: Expose girls to alternative ideas, helping them take control of their destiny. Empower adolescent girls to build social networks and groups allowing them to challenge gender norms. Strengthen girls’ team working and leadership capacities. Encourage the development of new skills, knowledge, and self-confidence. Provide literacy training, both financial and health. Provide educational opportunities through sport. Increase infrastructure capacity to support service. The growth of basketball on the continent will bring vast opportunities, it is especially important for us to align with existing NGOs to accelerate capacity, and show value of aligning with our initiative, to corporations and organizations. Must invest in yourself first!

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Maya: In honor of the inaugural world basketball day, we created a partnership with United to Beat Malaria: “Nothing but Nets.” Malaria negatively affects the health and education of millions of school-age children, resulting in increased school absenteeism and impaired intellectual development due to multiple episodes of malaria, chronic anemia, and seizures or cognitive impairment, all consequences of infection and severe disease. We will work together with Jonathan Kidwell at UTBM to bring awareness, provide insecticide nets, and vaccines in the countries we work; beginning this year in Ghana, with Back to The Motherland Foundation, founded by Laetecia Ahimere of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Maya: What do books, balls, and Spiffy all have in common? They all possess a unique ability to transport us to different times, places, and even alternate realities. When we immerse ourselves in a captivating novel, we become engrossed in the lives of its characters, sharing in their triumphs, struggles, and adventures. Sports, provide an opportunity for athletes and spectators to escape the rigors and stresses of daily routines. In these moments, the boundaries of reality blur, and the focus shifts to the thrill of the game, offering a much-needed break from the pressures of everyday existence.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Maya—it’s been an honor!

Ms. Monroe began her career at the leading public relation agency, Dan Klores Communications, where she represented such clients on sports events and initiatives. Since 2020, she has worked with the Ghana Basketball Association to assist in the coordination and execution of health, educational, sports programming, and community interventions. In April 2023, her foundation Soaring Grounds Ghana, launched a literacy initiative entitled “A Book and a Ball for Ghana” to distribute 20,000 books and balls throughout Ghana. She holds a B.S. in International Affairs and Public Policy from Georgia Tech, where she was a member of the women’s basketball team. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 20, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.