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Leaders for Education Series - Ana Ivanovic

©Zoran Jovanovic Maccak
UNICEF School Visit

Ana Ivanovic is a Serbian female athlete, former World No.1-ranked tennis player, much sought-after photo model and global sports star. In September 2007, Ana Ivanovic became a UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia and an advocate for child rights, particularly in the areas of education and child protection. She speaks to us about the role of education in her life and her involvement with the ‘School without Violence’ programme.

Born in Serbia, you have had a distinguished career in tennis. You’re also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to Serbia and children look to you as a role model.  Why is your advocacy role important to you and what messages do you have to share with children and young people about the importance of education and gender equality?

It’s an incredible honour to be invited to be a part of UNICEF and I take this role very seriously. I remember when I was a kid, I would look up to athletes as role models, and I understand that some children are looking at me this way. It is a nice responsibility to have.

I have always loved school and I enjoy studying. I am often asked for advice on how children can make it in professional tennis, and I always say that they should believe in themselves and follow their goals, but they should not forget about education because, along with having a stable family environment, it is the most important thing in a young person’s life.

As UNICEF Ambassador, you donated funds to the “School without Violence” Programme. Why did you choose this particular programme? Can you describe your personal experience with violence and education?

I was shocked to learn how much violence there is in schools in Serbia. I had a very happy childhood and enjoyed going to school, without having to worry about my safety. I therefore want to help others to have this basic right: to be able to study in a safe, enabling environment without bullying and physical aggression.

Looking back on your education, what helped you launch your successful career?

Concerning my career, the most important people were, certainly, my family. They gave me incredible support and never pushed me into anything – actually, I was pushing them! The belief they showed in me gave me extra confidence.

In school I had one teacher who had a particularly great influence on me. She was everything a teacher should be: informative, fun and understanding. She also helped with my career a little bit, because she allowed me to attend some tournaments during school time, and make up for it during the holidays.

© Manuela Davies/
In your experience, what happens to a child, particularly a girl, who does not receive an education?

Any child who does not receive an education is certainly at a disadvantage. It is very unfortunate, and they are likely to struggle. That is why we need to do all we can to ensure that education is available to all.

Is there anything about education you would like to add?

I think it’s important to note that education continues throughout your life: it is definitely not confined to a classroom. I love to read and have learnt so much in the past few years, especially about psychology, just by reading books on my own. Even sport can be educational: for example, you can learn about teamwork and discipline.

Click here for Ana Ivanovic's biography.

Click here for more on the upcoming E4 - Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality Conference


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E4 - Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality Conference