By: Ekkaphab Phanthavong | Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
Despite being affected by COVID-19 restrictions, the Tokyo 2020 Games were held successfully last summer amid hardships due to the prolonged pandemic. It proved that sports have not lost its ability to bring global communities together in the spirit of sportspersonship and unity, and sent messages of perseverance, hope and resilience.
Apart from spreading positive vibes and messages, the Tokyo 2020 Games also gave us positive energy and allowed us reprieve from all the negative news. It was a particularly historic moment for ASEAN, as all three Olympic gold medals came from women athletes: Indonesia’s badminton doubles team Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu, Philippines’ weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and Thailand’s taekwondo athlete Panipak Wongpattanakit. While, in Paralympic Games, approximately 30% of all medals obtained by ASEAN countries were obtained by women para athletes.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is the most gender-balanced games since its establishment. This year, women make up 48.8 percent of the 11,000 Olympians, increased from 45.6 percent in 2016 and 44.2 percent in 2012. It all happened despite all the COVID-19 adversities and restrictions affecting the world’s socio-economic growth.
ASEAN is committed to ensure full access to opportunities that will help women and girls thrive and actively participate in all decisions that affect building their livelihoods and independence—including in sports. Building on such momentum, as long-time dialogue partners, ASEAN and Japan join hand in hand to promote gender equality in and through sports.
This started back in 2017, when ASEAN and Japan set priorities for cooperation in sports and agreed to work together in strengthening the participation of women and girls in sports and advancing sports for persons with disabilities, among others, in the light of Tokyo 2020 Games.
Last 3 December, coinciding with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, ASEAN Secretariat hosted the virtual ASEAN #WeScore Talk Show.
This event forms part of a Japan-funded Campaign, ASEAN #WeScore, involving ten appointed women in sports ambassadors: Her Royal Highness Princess ‘Azemah Ni'matul Bolkiah (Bruneian polo athlete), Sokha Pov (Cambodian traditional martial arts athlete), Leani Ratri Oktila (Indonesian para-badminton athlete, gold and silver medalist of Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games), Soulamphone Kerdla (Lao PDR’s national swimming team head coach of), Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (Malaysian gymnast), Soe Soe Myar (taekwondo athlete and referee from Myanmar), Hidilyn Diaz (Filipino weightlifter), Amita Berthier (Singaporean fencer), Panikpak Wongpattanakit (Thai taekwondo athlete) and Tuyet Van Chau (Vietnamese taekwondo athlete).