March 9th, 2011

Women and the Next Lap

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Over 200 participants from all walks of life attended Women’s Choices Women’s Lives: Shaping the Next 25 Years at Kent Ridge Guild House on Saturday 5th March.

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.

View the photo gallery from the event here.

During the event attendees heard papers on various subjects relating to women in Singapore from the country’s top feminists including Braema Mathi, Dr Teo You Yenn, Dr Linda Lim and Dr Kanwaljit Soin. Full text of their working papers can be viewed here:

MATHI_Women’s Choices – The Long and Short of It

LIM_Beyond Gender: The Impact of Age, Ethnicity, Nationality and Economic Growth on Women in the Singapore economy

SOIN_The Forgotten Generation: The Lost Potential of Older Women

TEO_Making Choices Amidst Increasing Burdens: A Feminist Analysis of Singapore’s Pronatal Policies

**The working papers constitute “work in progress” and are not to be reproduced or republished elsewhere**

The stage was then handed over to young Singaporeans Muhammad Jauhari Bin Zain, Wong Pei Chi, and Gillian Seetoh who discussed their gender equality hopes for the next lap.

Finally, participants broke up into small groups and, based on the ideas discussed in the earlier part of the event, drafted a ‘wishlist’ of recommendations on how to achieve equal rights 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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