Pictured (left to right): Janelle Pangilinan, Shirley Kim, Merlie Tolentino and Cristy Villaflor – Norther Marianas Badminton Assoication
Today (Monday 8 March 2021) is International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme being #ChooseToChallenge. The movement aims to bring awareness to our individual thoughts, actions and ability to choose, challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. Gender Equity remains high priority for Badminton Oceania, with a commitment to actively support participation of women and men in badminton at all levels of the sport and an aim of achieving a minimum representation of 40% of the under-represented gender by 2024.
Northern Marianas Badminton Association (NMBA) is paving the way for gender equality in their country as they confirmed board members which included over 50% representation by women – unlike most of the competing national sporting associations.
Moreover, all four members recently attended and completed Badminton Oceania’s online umpire training course as they plan to contribute to the future of badminton events in the country – including the Pacific Mini Games which are scheduled to take place in June 2022.
The Pacific Games have already made a legacy of its own already as among the newly elected board members is 21-year-old Janelle Pangilinan. She found badminton through a summer programme in 2011, delivered by NMBA in partnership with Badminton Oceania, and competed in the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games – where the NMBA team made headlines for their ability to compete internationally despite not having a coach, battling with cyclones and relying on YouTube tutorials to improve their techniques and tactics.
Additionally, Shirley Kim has upheld her presence as treasurer since 2009, alongside Cristy Villaflor who brought her love for badminton from the Philippines where she started playing in the early 2000’s.
Celebrating her third appointment as NMBA President, Merlie Tolentino has been part of the Executive Board for the past 12 years. Merlie expressed her excitement for the future of badminton in their country, following the appointments which she knows will be driven by passion for the sport and ability to boost people’s physical and mental health:
What does the phrase ‘Choose To Challenge’ mean to you?
“For me it means, having the courage and commitment to achieve goals, whether it’s my personal goals, goals for the organization I belonged with, or goals for my family. There will be challenges along the way as we reach for these goals, but if we remain determined, positive, and be pro-active, then we can survive these hurdles toward realizing our goals”, says Merlie
How do you hope to use your position on the board to ‘choose to challenge’? What barriers are the most pressing for you, which you’ll be looking to implement?
“NMBA is proud to say that among the local sports federations in the Northern Mariana Islands, we are one of the few groups that have more female officers. As the NMBA president, I wish to encourage women, particularly our youth, to choose to get more involved in spreading the NMBA program throughout the CNMI”
“There will always be people/players who will join NMBA competitions or events, but consistently finding people who will organize them or help NMBA work on these events has always been a challenge. Our approach on this challenge is to reach out to Badminton Oceania/Badminton World Federation and see how can we train enough people to work on the administration, technical, and coaching sides of badminton”, says Merlie