Women’s basketball I’ve been spat at in the face ?

The former professional basketball player says, “I have been spat on the face for my skin colour.”

“I have experienced racism in more ways that I would like.”

Ms. Chan is the first African scout to be managed by a NBA team. This league is the most prestigious professional basketball league in the world. She inspires a new generation to pursue the sport.

“Basketball was the key to my success. It is everything,” Ms Chan says. She is featured in the BBC 100 Women List of influential and inspiring women this year.

She and her family were residents of Khartoum during second Sudanese Civil War. She recalls hearing noises outside her house at night and being repeatedly threatened with arrest.

They fled Kenya in search of a better life and education.

Ms Chan says, “It was where we could finally enjoy the right to play sports.”

Her passion for basketball was ignited here. She recalls the conversation that lead to her and her sister trying out the sport.

“I can recall being the tallest kid in Kenyan school. Our principal asked us if we would like to play.

“And at that time, honestly speaking, my mind was not there.” So I told him, with all respect, that I didn’t want the sport to be mandatory.

After years of hard work, she was awarded a scholarship to Union University in Jackson, Tennessee for four years as an undergraduate basketball player. She played professionally across Europe and Africa for 14 years.

Basketball can touch many hearts. She says basketball can change lives.

Ms. Chan was also subject to racism while playing the sport. She recalled an incident that occurred when she traveled to Algiers with her team mates. A man threw her face.

She says, “Without the foundation of my family’s instilled values in me, I wouldn’t have been capable of enduring all of it.”

“Right before my departure, my father and mum told me, “You are beautiful just as you are.”

Ms. Chan was shocked to see the injustices that women faced when she returned to South Sudan in 2012. She witnessed forced and early marriages.

She says, “At 18 years old you can start looking for a partner.”

She explains that girls are faced with the decision of whether they want to continue to school or to receive financial assistance from the man in their lives.

“I cried way too much.

It reached a point when I was tired of crying and I had to figure out how I could help make things right.

So Ms. Chan founded the Home At Home/Apediet Foundation as a mentoring charity to fight child marriage and promote education and sport.

She recalls the time when she was watching a football game and a girl approached her to sit beside her on the bench.

She says, “She wasn’t even a basketball player. She was just a random child that came to me and opened up to me and shared a heartbreaking story about how she was raped the previous night.”

“It really tore me apart, because I had my own traumatizing experiences with rape. It took me a while to heal.

“In the beginning, I was in denial. [I] thought] that such traumas and rape didn’t happen to six-foot two girls. It makes you feel worthless, helpless, and bitter.

She believes that healing comes from “doing the hardest thing” and forgiving the perpetrator. This is also what she has learned from her foundation work.

She says, “I was born in poverty and we solved it.”

These children only require an opportunity because they are gifted, intelligent, and able.

“Someone helped me start playing sports and I wouldn’t have been where I am today without them.”

Ms Chan believes that basketball is a male-dominated game, but there are great opportunities for women to play it on the continent.

“Sports are the future of Africa.” She says it’s Africa’s weapon, especially for girls.

She says she takes her mentoring role seriously because “people saw things in me I hadn’t seen.”

After a Kenyan basketball camp spotting her, she was able to coach and land her job with the Toronto Raptors.

The team was established in 1995 to expand the NBA into Canada. Ms. Chan is now employed by the team to identify emerging talent and to create a pipeline that opens up opportunities for players in North America.

Recently, she traveled to Uganda and Tanzania to select players for the major tournament in Rwanda next.

She says, “It’s my wish that ‘ball gets up to the point where there is a WBAL (a Women Basketball African League)”.

“That’s my dream for these girls. They’re not bound by culture. They’re not restricted by any thinking.

“They are free and truly liberated in their minds and can pursue their dreams as human beings, and not be restrained by being this or another gender.”

BBC 100 Women identifies 100 influential and inspiring women from around the globe every year. Follow BBC 100 Women Instagram and Facebook. Join the conversation with #BBC100Women.


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