January 12th, 2010

As we begin a new decade

Last year was an extraordinary year for women and Singapore, with our women adventurers reaching the top of Everest and the South Pole. AWARE, meanwhile, went through its own crisis and emerged all the stronger and clearer about its role. As we begin a new decade, says  Dana Lam, let’s make 2010 a year of celebration and affirmation.

As 2009 drew to a close, Sophia Pang became the first Singapore woman to reach the South Pole.

Sophia Pang sets out for the South Pole

Sophia Pang set out for the South Pole to show her young daughter, and other women, that it is good to pursue their dreams

The 37 year-old  IT consultant and fitness trainer, a mother of three, had trekked some 900 km and climbed close to 12,000 feet in subzero temperatures to get there. She had been selected from more than 800 applicants to be on the 7-woman Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition.

Earlier in the year, in May, five Singapore women – Esther Tan, Joanne Soo, Jane Lee, Lee Peh Gee, and Lee Li Hui  – got to the top of Everest. A sixth member of the Singapore Women’s Everest Team, Sim Yi Hui, unfortunately had to pull out of the final ascent because of chest pains. The team’s sense of achievement was all the greater because they had struggled for five years to find the funds for their expedition.

These were extraordinary successes in an extraordinary year for women and Singapore.

Sophia’s determination to get to the South Pole was made stronger because her little daughter had said to her that “it would be a miracle if she were selected”. Sophia wanted to show her little girl that it is good to dare to dream and to try, and that ‘miracles’ do happen. She also wanted to show other women that it is okay to make time for themselves and pursue their own dreams, and that they are    better able to help others when they help themselves stay happy and healthy.

We couldn’t agree more.

As we begin a new year and a new decade, we invite you to make this a year of celebration and affirmation of your lives.

This is the 25th anniversary year of AWARE and it is a good time to remember and honour the women in years past whose daring and imagination in much harder times opened doors and created new pathways for us. Those who will come after us will need to help keep these paths open and to add new ones.

Apart from the 25th anniversary celebrations, we will continue with our research and outreach programmes and our direct services.

We need researchers, communicators, and trainers; and writers, graphic designers, creative directors, event organisers.  We need bilingual volunteers for community outreach.  AWARE also needs ambassadors who will speak for us and help open doors to donors and sponsors to ensure our viability. If you can help in any of these areas, please get in touch.

In the months ahead, the AWARE Training Institute (ATI) will roll out two new programmes. The   Workplace Sexual Harassment (WSH) workshop had a pilot run in December with very encouraging feedback from the participants.

Meanwhile, a Gender Core Curriculum has been developed for members in response to calls for information about feminism, the history of the women’s movement, and gender issues. Details will be announced soon.

The Singles Sub-committee has started its work, and the Legal Clinic lawyers have been looking at expanding the service. The AWARE Helpline & related direct services have continued to offer information and solace to women in distress. We received 2,200 calls between January and November last year, a 20% increase from the 1,829 calls received during all of 2008. Between April and November, AWARE counsellors clocked 304 sessions with clients, more than double the 125 sessions for the same period in 2008.

On behalf of the Executive Committee and staff at the AWARE Centre, I’d like to thank all members and the many others for the immense goodwill and unprecedented support of the past year.  We look forward to your continued support for a secular AWARE committed to equality and inclusiveness.

All the best for 2010!

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