Two young Nigerians, 21-year-old taekwondo star Elizabeth Ayanacho and 13-year-old golf prodigy Iyeneobong Essien, have been named on the list of Game Changers of 2020.
Established by the Malala Fund co-founded by student and Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, the Game Changers series focuses on incredible female athletes while raising awareness about missing indigenous women, advocating for girls to study STEM and speaking out for other para-athletes.
Ayanacho started competing in her first major taekwondo tournament in 2017 and has since won several tournaments. In 2020, the 21-year-old became the first Nigerian female taekwondo athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games in 16 years.
Thirteen-year-old Essien, who picked up her first golf club when she was five years old. Is described as Nigeria's top junior golfer, with 17 medals and 11 international tournaments under her belt. Most recently, Iyene took 10th place at the 2019 Nigeria Ladies Golf Open Championship, where she was the only teen player out of 177 golfers. She hopes to win Nigeria's first gold medal in golf at the upcoming 2022 Summer Youth Olympics.
The 2020 Games Changers list comprises 30 female athletes selected from 24 countries and are described as "female athletes defying convention on and off the field around the world."
According to the statement by the organisers, "They're challenging discrimination and lack of diversity in their sports. They're changing perceptions of people with disabilities. They're paving the way for other young women. And they're speaking out to help every girl learn."
These Game Changers include footballers, skateboarders, gamers, swimmers, runners, golfers, skiers, surfers, fencers, softball players and martial artists. Some have competed at the Olympics and Paralympics, others are just starting out.
"Each one is a testament to the incredible potential of girls and women when given the opportunity to learn and lead."