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Foundation's female voices: "I work harder to open doors for the girls coming after me"

MIES (Switzerland) - Five women, five continents, five weeks, five stories of resilience, leadership and Basketball For Good leading up to the International Women’s day on March 8th. For week two, discover the story of Gabriela Mena who was a delegate in the Foundation's Mini Basketball Convention, is now a part of the Virtual Mini Basketball Seminars and plays an integral role in the Basketball Federation of El Salvador.

Gabriela Mena was born into a basketball family, “the sport was not only lived, but sweated and even bled” said the young women from El Salvador. All members were basketball players and coaches, obsessed with the game. “I lived on the court, I was always there, sometimes helping hydrate thirsty players, the one holding a clipboard or being a medical assistant to my mom and then as a player”. 

Gabriela grew up on the basketball courts

 However, the real trigger happened when she was nine years old and was gifted her first camera just when the 2002 Central American games were held in El Salvador, “I took some poorly framed photos of the players backstage, action shots and of course exclusive photos of the team. Something happened that night, I was hooked, it made my heart beat faster and gave me goosebumps, seeing the flashes bouncing on the court, hearing the cries of encouragement, that feeling captured me, became indispensable and each year it grew more and it was a kind of calling to finally find my vocation, Basketball.”

 While going to college and majoring in Communication, the young woman continued to be part of the Salvadoran basketball Federation (FESABAL). Since the age or 14, she had been involved with the Federation as a photographer and translator for various activities such as coaching and refereeing clinics, and coverage of national leagues and tournaments as well as international tournaments.

 Thanks to the experience gained in these tournaments, Gabriela had the opportunity to work in the communications department in FESABAL where she was also collaborating with the FIBA regional office in the Americas. In 2019 she was promoted to Technical Manager where she oversees the administrative and technical staff and programs.

“The road hasn’t been easy” said the young woman, “but basketball has taught me that if you are committed to a cause and work hard for it, things will eventually work out.  I had to face challenges for both being a woman and being young but it has pushed me to work harder to open doors for the girls coming after me, now being in a position where I can help out more in providing equal opportunities for our girls”.

Gabriela is also hoping to have an impact on youths. She took part in the Mini Basketball Convention in El Salvador, learning the tools to enhance Mini Basketball within her country, “it was by far the most eye-opening experience on how we could change a kid’s reality and future through sports, especially in my country with high rates of violence, how basketball influences change in our society”.

Gabriel attended the FIBA Mini Basketball convention in El Salvador

Since taking part in the event, she has worked on a strategic plan for Mini Basketball, making their programs more accessible and fun, to motivate kids to have a first positive experience and fall in love with basketball. She is also taking part in the first virtual Mini Basketball Seminar, which was established as a follow-up to the Conventions and in which she hopes “to improve their development programs and achieve a synchronized philosophy between all the stakeholders to improve our kids opportunities, tools, and overall experience in basketball”.

The young lady is also part of FIBA Adelante’s female leadership program and has been nominated by FIBA Americas President for the online program ASOIF  “Woman lead sports”. 

“Basketball has no limits of any kind. It can provide better opportunities and tools for our community” said Gabriela. “It is important for women and girls to play because it makes us free from every social stigma, equal in opportunities, respect, power, and wellbeing. One of my favourite stories to tell is of the El Salvador U16 team that took part in the U16 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship and faced giants. Beyond the results, each of them portrayed courage and a love and passion for the game. And it paid off, the captain of that team was offered a full scholarship in Mexico”.

Gabriela snapped this shot that went viral when the El Salvador Team was about to face the USA

Gabriela hopes to pass this message on to girls worldwide, “Basketball opens doors, and it’s up to you to create your journey, you are capable of many things, being a girl makes you powerful”.