March 9th, 2011

Media Release: Gender Equity Essential for Singapore’s Next Lap


AWARE-NUSS conference calls for Constitution to prohibit gender discrimination and quota set for women in Parliament.

Singapore, March 8th 2011 – For all the progress made in the last 25 years, gender discrimination still exists in Singapore today. This was the unanimous view of the 200 or so participants at the Women’s Choices, Women’s Lives: Shaping the Next 25 Years conference held on Sat 5 March.

This discrimination must be eradicated and gender equity achieved if Singapore is to truly flourish in the next 25 years and if the challenges of the low fertility rate and the ageing population are to be tackled effectively, the conference participants agreed.

The conference, organised by AWARE and the National University of Singapore Society, was a reprise of the eponymous 1984 NUSS forum which led to the founding of AWARE. It marked both the close of AWARE’s 25th anniversary celebrations and the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Following presentations by Singapore’s leading feminists, participants took part in facilitated group discussions and drew up a gender equity wish list to present to policy makers.

The key recommendations to policy makers are:

1. A quota of 30 per cent be set for women in Parliament as recommended by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was ratified by Singapore in 1995.

2. That an independent body (such as an ombudsman or commission) be formed to ensure equal opportunities for both women and men.

3. The Singapore Constitution be amended to prohibit gender discrimination.

4. All policies and legislation be reviewed and all gender discriminatory laws, policies and practices be removed or replaced with laws, policies and practices that promote an equitable and sustainable work-life balance for both women and men.

5. Gender studies be added to the core curriculum for all students, and in the Civil Service.

6. Budgetary allocations to health care be increased significantly so as to ensure the good health of older people.

7. Care-giving (of the young and the elderly) should be recognised as a gender-neutral skill, and the quality of, and access to, care facilities and services for children, elderly and the disabled should be improved.

Recommendations were also made for corporations, as well as individual men and women, to consider. The main ones are:

8. Employers should adopt non-discriminatory policies and practices as part of their organisations’ corporate culture, including zero tolerance of sexual harassment.

9. Employers should optimise flexibility for employees in terms of workplace and working hours, based on the understanding that productivity is enhanced by workers who are able to sustain a supportive work-life balance.

10. Individual men and women should seek to build equal partnerships in all spheres of life, including the workplace and the home, with shared responsibilities for the care of the young and the old.

The above are some of the 100 recommendations that were submitted by participants during the conference. AWARE will be reviewing these and will submit finalised recommendations to policy makers and other stakeholders.

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