December 28th, 2011

Our proudest achievements in 2011

We’ve had a very busy year here at AWARE. Catch up on what we have accomplished, and join us for more initiatives in 2012.

We launched the Sexual Assault Befrienders Service(SABS)

In November, AWARE launched the first support service for survivors of sexual assault in Singapore after a 6-month pilot period. We decided to introduce SABS after receiving several Helpline calls from women who had suffered from sexual assault years ago, and were still unable to get closure as they did not receive the support they needed at the time.

SABS comprises a dedicated Helpline, counselling, legal counselling and Befriending services.

The SABS Helpline 6779 0282 runs on weekdays from 10am to 9.30 pm. Sexual assault survivors can also email us at sabs@aware.org.sg for assistance.

Our response time for SABS is shorter as the needs of these women are more urgent, and we also follow up on their cases more closely. SABS clients get to see our legal counsellor within three days (depending on urgency) instead of waiting 2 weeks for our regular Legal Clinic. We can send a SABS Befriender down to the police station almost immediately, if necessary.

Our website also offers the most comprehensive information available on rape and sexual assault in Singapore.

We contributed to the proposed repeal of Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act

At AWARE’s SABS launch, Law Minister K Shanmugam announced the intended repeal of Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act, an archaic law that makes it possible to discredit an alleged sexual assault victim through her sexual history.

Many people contributed to this development. AWARE is proud to have participated in this process by helping to highlight Section 157(d) and discussing its disturbing implications with Minister Shanmugam. Read our detailed submission on this section of the Evidence Act here.

We reached out to more women in need of help

In 2011, a record number of women sought out our Helpline, Counselling and Legal Clinic services.

Compared to 2010, the number of calls received on our Helpline has increased by 6%, while our Counselling cases increased by 47% and Legal Clinic cases increased by 14%.

To meet this greater demand, we are looking for more female lawyers to volunteer for our Legal Clinic, as well as volunteers keen to join our SABS team.

We have also successfully completed the training for our very first batch of Mandarin-speaking Helpline volunteers, who will be able to assist Mandarin-speaking callers.

Want to volunteer with AWARE? Signing up is easy: click here to get started.

Here are some thoughts from an AWARE volunteer who has been a Helpliner for two years:

“It’s great to see more and more regular Helpliners at AWARE. What worries me is the high proportion of non-Singaporean Helpliners in comparison to their overall population in Singapore. Don’t get me wrong. I am actually very grateful to all the non-Singaporeans for helping out. What I cannot understand is why the Singaporeans are not being able to volunteer as much. Is it because Singaporeans are too busy with their own lives? Why are ‘foreigners’ more keen to help? Is it the because of the different ways we were brought up?

I like to listen to and talk with people and help them address their issues. I wasn’t familiar with what AWARE did and I didn’t know if I would be able to help those in need by volunteering here. Another organisation suggested that I could volunteer as an AWARE Helpliner. And I am happy I followed the advice.

It amazes me how people can open up very readily over the phone. I understand that the anonymity makes them comfortable. There are days when after my Helpline session, I feel quite blessed to be able to help people. Of course, there are also some days when I wish I could really help the callers more than I was able to.”

We lobbied for women’s rights at the United Nations in New York

Photo taken by Dana Lam. From left: Nadzirah Samsudin, Braema Mathi and Halijah Mohamad

We believe that the United Nations’ Convention On The Elimination Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is ratified by the Singapore government, is an important mechanism that helps keep women’s issues on the national agenda.

As part of our efforts to use this human rights framework to work towards gender equality in Singapore, we submitted our third CEDAW Shadow Report to the United Nations this year. Making the trip to the UN headquarters in New York were: AWARE CEDAW Sub-Committee chair Braema Mathi, AWARE Vice-President Halijah Mohamad, AWARE immediate past president Dana Lam and AWARE research executive Nadzirah Samsudin.

Shadow Reports are submitted by NGOs so that the UN can get a more comprehensive understanding of the lives of women in each country before making their recommendations to the governments of these countries.

Find out more about our Shadow Report, our lobbying efforts and how CEDAW works here.

We recommended mandatory paternity leave

We commissioned a survey of 1,001 working parents, conducted by students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Business & Accountancy.

When asked whether they thought paternity leave should be made compulsory, 91% of the respondents said yes. Of these, 93% explained that paternity leave would allow fathers to be more involved in parenting.

A significant number of the parents – 57% – said they would welcome having the option of transferring parenting leave from mother to father.

These survey results back up our policy recommendations with regards to paternity leave, which include:

  • Make paid paternity leave of two weeks mandatory, with the cost shared between the employer and the state.
  • Convert one of the four months of maternity leave into ‘parental leave’ to be taken by either parent, with the state sharing the cost with the employer when the father takes this leave.
  • Offer a ‘parenting present’ of $4,000 to couples where the father takes the one month of parental leave.
  • Convert the currently mandated 6 days of paid childcare leave into dependent’s leave, with ‘dependents’ including older children and parents.

Read more about our recommendations here.

We submitted feedback about the Singapore Budget

For the first time, AWARE submitted a position paper to policy-makers about the allocation of funds and policy priorities reflected in the Singapore Budget.

We believe that women’s issues are important national issues, and that it is important to bring women’s perspectives to policy-making.

Some of our recommendations include:

  • Investing in more and better centres to care for infants, children and youths.
  • Extending the same motherhood and childcare benefits to unwed mothers.
  • Increasing the subsidies for women and men who care for dependent relatives (i.e. physically disabled or mentally ill children and siblings; elderly parents or grandparents), and peg the eligibility criteria to the prevailing median income.
  • Transparency on the Medifund criteria and a breakdown by sex and age of its impact on women.
  • A greater effort made to retain women in the workforce, via the elimination of discrimination, mentoring schemes and training programmes.
  • Eliminate discrimination against women at the workplace, including any form of sexual
    harassment. Put in place programmes that motivate and support capable women to aspire to and reach management and leadership positions.

Read our submission in full here.

We re-launched our financial education course

Our Financial Awareness & Confidence Training (FACT) workshops have been re-structured to make it more useful for women looking to gain crucial skills and knowledge to take charge of their future.

FACT classes are now offered in three parts, dealing with personal finance, insurance and investment respectively.

In 2012, we will be marketing FACT more widely to reach out to more women. Want to be a part of these efforts? Find out more here.

We invented the AWARE Awards and the Alamak! Awards

To drum up more attention for gender equality in Singapore, we launched the very first AWARE Awards, to celebrate women and men who have broken through gender barriers and helped to nurture a culture of gender equality in Singapore.

Just for fun, we also created the Alamak! Awards, which highlights instances of sexism in Singapore.

The winners of the AWARE Awards and the Alamak! Awards were announced at our Big Ball fundraising dinner this year. Find out more about the winners here.

We are now accepting nominations for the 2012 AWARE Awards and Alamak! Awards. Do your part for gender equality and submit your nominations here!

We raised a record amount of money for our initiatives

Thanks to the support of organisations like the Chen Su Lan Trust, the Margaret Mary Wearne Charitable Trust, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, the Lee Foundation and the Chew How Teck Foundation, our fund-raising efforts this year went extremely well, with about $800,000 raised to fund our various initiatives, including the Sexual Assault Befrienders Service and the increased outreach of our Support Services.

We’d also like to thank the AWARE members, volunteers and supporters who generously donated their time, expertise and/or money to our various fundraising initiatives, including the inaugural Big Ball gala. We couldn’t have done it without you!

We got hits

Readership figures for our website and the number of people joining our Facebook page grew significantly this year. As we continue working towards our goal of making the AWARE website the best source of news about feminism in Singapore, we will be bringing you more self-generated content.

This year, for instance, we commissioned articles from contributors like blogger Alex Au, feminist writers Lisa Li and Anu Selva-Thomson and academic Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, as well as our small but dedicated army of awesome interns, who brought you articles like this and this.

Besides the website, you can keep in touch with AWARE via our Facebook page. Also, anyone – not just AWARE members – who wants to keep abreast of the latest news about women’s issues both in Singapore and abroad can sign up for our new and improved Daily News Update email service, where we deliver the most topical and interesting articles about gender issues straight to your inbox every weekday.

If you want to write for AWARE, please write to media@aware.org.sg to tell us what issues you are interested in.

2 Comments ...

  1. Tania

    Congratulations you awesome women :)

    #3040
  2. Emily

    I second Tania!

    #3042