Jakarta, IO – Disabled athletes now may feel that they are equally acknowledged as ordinary athletes. However, they require more tournaments to showcase their abilities, as there are much fewer tournaments for disabled athletes than for ordinary athletes – especially for women – during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We all notice how crowded the competition schedule for non-disabled athletes, while a lot of Paralympics originally held for us disabled athletes were canceled thanks to the pandemic. Yes, we are fully aware that all countries suffer from the pandemic, but organizers are making sure that non-disabled competitions are held anyway while we disabled athletes have to accept our competitions being delayed and canceled. This is simply unfair,” said Leani Ratri Oktila, gold-winning Indonesian female badminton athlete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, in a recent talk show organized by the ASEAN.
Leani becomes one of the 10 Female Athlete Ambassadors selected by ASEAN to speak out about various issues, especially in terms of gender equality and more active participation of women in sports. Disability issues for female athletes is an issue ASEAN cares for very much. Therefore, with the support of the Japanese Government, ASEAN held a talk show featuring ten female athlete ambassadors from ASEAN countries to discuss existing issues.
The Ambassadors are: HRH Princess Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah (polo bronze medalist in the 29th and 30th SEA Games, Brunei Darussalam), Sokha Pov (martial arts gold medalist in the Vovinam World Cup, Cambodia), Leani Ratri Oktila (World Badminton Federation Best Para-Badminton Woman Athlete 2018 and 2019, winner of badminton gold medal in Tokyo Paralympics 2020, Indonesia), Soulamphone Kerdla (head coach for Laos National Olympic Swim Team), Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (gymnast, Malaysia), Soe Soe Myar (taekwondo coach and athlete, Myanmar), Amitha Berthier (World #1 Dunia Junior Foil Fencer, fencing gold medalist in Tokyo Olympics 2020, Singapore), Panikpak Wongpattnakit (taekwondo gold medalist in Tokyo Olympics 2020, Thailand), Tuyet Van Chau (four consecutive taekwondo gold medals in SEA Games, Vietnam), and Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting gold medalist in Tokyo Olympics 2020, the Philippines).
Jamshed M. Kazi, UN Women Country Representative for Indonesia and Liaison to ASEAN in Jakarta, states that female athletes make excellent advocates for discovering and finding solutions for many threats and problems faced by women, such as household violence, sexual harassment during training and briefing, and other issues. “These are extremely difficult and traumatic experiences faced by female athletes. However, this is exactly the forum where they can speak freely to share their experiences. Usually, it is hard for them to do this safely, as they face both physical threats and long-term consequences for their sporting careers,” he said.
Female athletes also make powerful advocates to speak out about gender-based violence in other fields. For example, child brides and normalized sexual harassment is very much an issue in ASEAN countries. Girls and women are pressured to marry early and prevented from concentrating in studies, sports, or careers. “If injustice and violence against women are declared by victims or survivors themselves, we cannot help but take the issue more seriously and make better efforts to resolve them. Right now, more and more sports organizations, justice systems, and countries take these issues more seriously. Yes, there are costs and sacrifices. However, I believe that it is important for female athletes to speak out as victims and survivors,” he said. (nhn)