MANILA, Philippines, March 19 ------ Philippine women's national football team goalkeeper Inna Palacios has become one of the beacons of women empowerment, more so as International Women's Month rolls on. But if the Filipinas veteran is to be asked, the goal is not only to become a role model for women and raise their game to the next level. Rather, Palacios wants to see something more radical: a gender-less approach in the world of sports.
As female athletes like herself fight for their spaces in the male-dominated industry, the goal is to diminish the differences between men and women completely. In Embracing Equity: Stories of Championing Every One, a forum hosted by Coca Cola Philippines for women's month, Palacios shared how she wants to shape the future for girls like her. "I think for any sport, we need to have a different mindset... It is a very male-dominated industry, but again sports is just sports itself," said Palacios. "Like in sports, there's no him or her, no female, male. It's just always an athlete and a player and I think that's how we should always look at it and that's how we're gonna get equality there and equal opportunity."
Also present in the forum were other women leaders like host and former volleyball player Gretchen Ho, and sociologist Tina Boado. Ho, now a storyteller after playing the part of an athlete herself all those years ago, mirrored Palacios' sentiments. "Gusto ko rin paki-ingatan not to exclude the men. I mean, let them celebrate also — these stories." she said, pertaining to stories of the Filipinas' success. "I guess the dream is we get to the point that we don't need to talk about gender."
More than words
But of course, a goal will never be more than just an idea if it won't be compounded with action. For Palacios, it's all about investing on and providing support for athletes. "I think the best way to really support an athlete and support teams here in Philippine sports is just to get behind these athletes and give them the opportunity to be successful and really invest and believe in them," she said.
Queer Safe Spaces Philippines co-founder Boado, meanwhile, pointed to ensuring women's safety as well, and that they have someone to turn to when things go south. "One thing that we should think about doing is to ensure that there's a safe environment for women athletes. Like if there are instances of harassment or discrimination, let's make sure to aid it with policies or mechanisms to ensure that it never happens," she said. Palacios, Ho, and Boado were part of a two-panel event hosted by Coke to amplify the voices of women during International Women's Month.