Jessica spent her childhood in Marawai City in the Philippines, a region where insurgents and government forces often clashed. Her family moved to Iligan, a buffer zone with Muslim, Christian, and Indigenous populations, but Jessica’s darker skin marked her as an outsider and she was often harassed. It was through sport that she found a way to deal with discrimination.
“I didn’t have many ball skills or technique,” Jessica recalls. “But my college coach gave me one-on-one training and I gained confidence in my abilities. For the first time in my entire life, I was appreciated. I realized sport could offer me support and could help anyone who suffered the same horrible things I did growing up.”
Jessica still lives in Mindanao, where a patriarchal culture and what she calls a “belief barrier” affects efficient collaboration between communities of the Tri-People in her province; Muslims, Christians, and the Indigenous population. She says it is women’s voices that are often lost in the noise.
“That is why it is my mission to help oppressed women and children. This is empowerment for me—to go from being a victim to someone who could make a real difference in my society.”
Jessica now works with her husband in women’s rights advocacy, and as a football master trainer for the ASA Foundation/Asian Soccer Academy, as well as being the regional coordinator for Let’s Do It! Philippines. Jessica dreams of creating a center that focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration for victims of sexual assault. With the help of the Global Sports Mentoring program, Jessica has connected with mentors Laura Burton and Jennifer McGarry (at the University of Connecticut) a is working to create an open facility for women and children all over Mindanao, with an inclusive program for persons with disabilities. She plans to use sport-based education, training to bring together women in a safe space where they can heal and find empowerment together.
Source and image: Global Sports Mentoring program