December 31st, 2013

AWARE’s Top 10 in 2013

AWARE santa smallOut with the old year and in with the new!  As we plan our work for 2014, we’ve also been thinking about some of AWARE’s most significant achievements in 2013.  Here’s our top 10 list – all thanks to the help and support of our members and friends.

1) We took 3372 Helpline calls from women in need of information and/or support.  The AWARE Helpline, Singapore’s only helpline for women run by women, turned 22 this year, and continued to provide advice, assistance and a listening ear to women all across the island.  Our legal clinic provided free consultations to 248 clients facing challenging personal circumstances, while 178 clients benefited from our counselling services. Finally, our Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (SABS), launched in 2011, remained a vital source of support for victims of sexual assault, assisting 64 women in 2013 through reporting and/or recovery.

2) We made recommendations on population policy. Through submissions to government and media statements, AWARE pushed for the national conversation on policy to focus on human welfare and environmental sustainability, not just economic growth.  Population will almost certainly remain a major focus of debate in years to come, and AWARE will work to keep a gender equality perspective in the political conversation.

we can logo3) We initiated the We Can! campaign.  In May, Singapore became the 16th country to join the We Can! international movement to end violence against women, which empowers individuals and organisations to tackle the root causes of violence in their communities. In just seven months, We Can! has gone from strength to strength, including:

  • Recruiting over 700 Change Makers who pledged to commit to a violence-free life.
  • Encouraging bystander intervention through Would you step in, an inspiring video drawing over 116,000 views in a single month.
  • Sharing everyday stories of violence in Blk 2511, an innovative Facebook app.
  • Drawing 270 visitors to the inaugural We Can! Arts Fest – 89% said the event helped them better understand what they could do to end violence.

4) Paternity leave became a reality.  For years, AWARE has advocated more inclusive family policies, including paternity leave to support shared care-giving and give fathers the opportunity to better participate in family life. This year, our work paid off – fathers are now entitled to one week of paternity leave. Though this is less than we’d asked for, and we still have much to say about the 2013 Parenthood Scheme, it’s a good first step.

5) We pushed for a socially equal national Budget.  In February, we made extensive budget recommendations advocating lifelong comprehensive healthcare, especially for the elderly. (Here’s our press release summary.)  Pleasingly, the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally speech also outlined policy shifts towards more comprehensive healthcare and inclusive housing.  We’re heartened that recognition of these essentials is growing and we will continue to advocate for those in need with Budget 2014.

6) Our supporters celebrated at the Big Red Ball.  Over 350 friends and supporters raised more than $250,000 at our annual fundraising gala to support our work for a more equal society.  Our annual awards honoured pathbreaking icons Constance Singam and Rachel Chung, as well as others who have helped erode gendered barriers in Singapore, while the popular Alamak! award highlighted some egregious examples of sexism in the past year.

updated SHOUT7) We put the need to eradicate sexual harassment on the map.  AWARE has long lobbied to raise awareness of sexual harassment – including collecting over 1,700 signatures on our SHOUT petition.  In November, after consultation with us and others, Minister of Law K Shanmugam announced that the government will strengthen legal protection against harassment by next year.  We will keep the pressure on to ensure that these measures include employer responsibility for ending workplace sexual harassment.

8) We’ve been awarded our first United Nations grant! Specifically, a three-year grant by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, one of the most significant global funds dedicated to women’s economic and political empowerment. Together with our Indonesian partner, Solidaritas Perempuan, AWARE won this grant in a worldwide competition for projects that innovatively advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. Our winning project, “Gender equality is our culture”, aims to train 500 gender advocates to promote the principle that gender equality, in accordance with CEDAW, does not contradict culture. AWARE is working with allies to develop context-appropriate training. Join us to reclaim gender equality within your own culture!

9) Gender equality in the military came under scrutiny.  AWARE pushed once again for a fresh look at gender and the military.  We also successfully persuaded the Ministry of Defence and the Singapore Armed Forces to halt the singing of certain marching song lyrics celebrating sexual violence.  This prompted a much-needed national conversation about the normalisation of sexual violence and the bonding rituals of masculinity – including an entire page of editorials in the Sunday Times.

10) We spoke up for sexual and reproductive autonomy.  AWARE supports the right of every person, especially women, to control our own bodies and fertility.  In 2013 this right came under heavy pressure from pro-natalist and other agendas – including through spreading misinformation.  AWARE vigilantly ensured that the public conversation included a robust defence of reproductive freedom, access to patient-centred medical services including abortion, and full and accurate information about health and sexuality.

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