Recipients of AWARE Awards 2012

The recipients of the AWARE Awards 2012 were announced on Sept 10, at AWARE’s annual fundraising gala the Supersonic Big Ball.

Nominations were submitted by members of the public, and the recipients were chosen by a panel of judges: AWARE Vice-President Lindy Ong, lawyers Eleanor Wong and Siew Kum Hong, journalist Ong Soh Chin, and ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh.

In 2012, the AWARE Awards featured these new categories: Cause Of The Year, Campaign Of The Year, and Significant News Story Of The Year.

THE RECIPIENTS OF AWARE AWARDS 2012

AWARE HEROINES

Kanwaljit Soin

Dr Soin is a founder member and former president of AWARE, and the first female Nominated Member of Parliament, and she still holds the record for the most number of questions asked in the House.

Dr Soin is an AWARE Heroine for her vision and dynamic leadership in the formation and growth of WINGS, the Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully. Kani was the founding President of WINGS in 2006, and continued to lead it until last month.

WINGS is a non-profit education centre that seeks to empower older women with knowledge and skills; encourage them to live healthily and happily; and to stay financially self-reliant. These are important aims as women tend to live longer, with less income and in worse health, than men.


AWARE Heroine Dr Kanwaljit Soin

She was inspired to start WINGS after her work on the AWARE-Tsao Report titled Women Growing Older but Poorer. The report, published in 2005, brought to light the vulnerabilities of older women who, after a lifetime of caring for others, enter their twilight years in poverty and ill-health.

Under her leadership, WINGS grew rapidly. It now conducts more than 100 training sessions each month, and has some 4,500 members. WINGS has also taken flight globally and inspired chapters in Hong Kong and Japan.

Radha Basu

Radha is a Senior Correspondent at The Straits Times, and has written many insightful articles about issues facing women in Singapore. Her recent exposé on how women from the region are lured with the promise of jobs and then forced into the sex trade led to greater public awareness of this reprehensible activity. The public outrage over this helped to move the Government to establish the National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons.


AWARE Heroine Radha Basu

Radha has also written about the plight of migrant domestic workers. We have more than 200,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore, half of whom work long hours without any days off. The Government has announced that, with effect from 1 January next year, all domestic workers must have one day off every week.

This would not have come about without the public awareness and pressure on the authorities to do the right thing and make that day off mandatory. Radha’s articles helped to create the awareness of this need for change. Radha is a fine example of how a compassionate and dedicated journalist can make a big difference.

AWARE HERO

Mark Goh

Mark Goh grew up under the guidance of strong women role models, including the late war-time heroine, Elizabeth Choy, who was his grand-aunt. Observing his grandmother, grand-aunty, mother and aunties, he saw that their strength and dignity came from the freedom of self-determination, regardless of the roles they played.


AWARE Hero Mark Goh with his wife

Mark chairs the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI) Executive Committee. He advocates for the rights of foreign domestic workers and foreign-born wives of Singapore citizens, and for stronger social support for these vulnerable women. A practising lawyer, he also offers them pro bono legal counsel and representation.

CAUSE OF THE YEAR: WOMEN IN CORPORATE LEADERSHIP – LOCAL

Junie Foo and Juanita Woodward, co-chairs of BoardAgender

The judging panel chose female corporate leadership as the Cause of the Year to focus attention on an area where Singapore still lags behind many countries. Women hold just 6.9 per cent of directorships on the boards of Singapore-listed companies, and 61.3 per cent of the 730 companies listed on the Singapore Exchange do not have a single female member on their boards.

Junie Foo and Juanita Woodward are the co-chairs of BoardAgender, an initiative of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation to promote women in corporate leadership. Under their leadership, BoardAgender has raised awareness about the benefits of a gender-balanced business, and encouraged companies to advance women to leadership positions.


From left: Junie Foo and Juanita Woodward

The organisation aims to provide a forum in Singapore to facilitate a greater awareness and understanding of the benefits of gender-balanced business, and the advancement of more women into senior leadership roles and the boardroom.

CAUSE OF THE YEAR: WOMEN IN CORPORATE LEADERSHIP – INTERNATIONAL

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs has developed many initiatives to develop female talent and create a women-friendly work environment. Many companies have such initiatives but Goldman Sachs does it particularly well, with commitment starting from the top.


Brooks Entwistle, CEO of Goldman Sachs Singapore

A good example of this is Goldman’s approach to developing the female pipeline. Some time ago, Goldman Sach noticed that their female Vice-Presidents were not being promoted to Managing Director at the same rate as their male VPs. They initiated a sponsorship programme to support women VPs to become MDs. In three years, female MDs representation has arisen significantly. Outside of Japan, the Singapore office has the highest representation of female managing directors in Goldman Sachs Asia and this also surpasses the global average.

Goldman Sach’s Returnship programme addresses the industry-wide challenge of women leaving at a faster rate than men at a mid-point in their career, and provides women re-entering the industry with an opportunity to sharpen essential workplace skills. Other initiatives include flexible work arrangements and mentoring opportunities aimed at nurturing and retaining female leaders.

CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR

The “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People” campaign, by The Body Shop Singapore and local campaign partners UN Women Singapore and HOME


From left: Doreen Soh of The Body Shop Singapore, and Mrinalini Venkatachalam of UN Women Singapore

This campaign was launched in Singapore in 2010. By August 2011, it had amassed a record-breaking 114,886 petitions from members of the public, calling for positive change and action against trafficking. In September 2011, these petitions from Singapore, together with those from other countries (totaling over 7 million), were presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, making it one of the largest petitions in the history of the United Nations.


Bridget Lew of HOME

The Body Shop Singapore and its campaign partners have also unveiled their plans to continue tackling the problem of sex trafficking. Their approach is based on the findings and recommendations of international campaign partner ECPAT International, and encompasses the following areas: Prevention through raising public awareness; strengthening legal framework and law enforcement response through sustained engagement with local authorities and stakeholders; and providing support and assistance for sex trafficking victims through outreach programmes.

This campaign is an admirable partnership between a company with a strong social conscience, and local civil society groups. And this high impact collaboration has resulted in the government establishing a National Plan to Stop Trafficking in Persons.

SIGNIFICANT NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR

“The Silence Of Sexual Assault Victims”, publichouse.sg

Published in September 2011, this article was written by Lisa Li for website publichouse.sg, and explores the many areas where survivors of sexual assault in Singapore face great difficulties when it comes to reporting and recovering from their traumatic experiences. One of the points Ms Li raised was the existence of Section 157(d) of Singapore’s Evidence Act, which made it possible to discredit an alleged victim of sexual assault in court through her sexual history.


publichouse.sg editor Andrew Loh

After the article was published, publichouse.sg editor Andrew Loh sent it to several relevant government ministries, asking if they would like to publish replies, because “I thought the law was ludicrous and should be abolished”, says Mr Loh. His actions eventually helped to bring about a meeting between Minister of Law K Shanmugam and AWARE, and contributed to the repeal of Section 157(d). “We did this small thing which happened to be at the right time and right place,” says Ms Li.

Read this article here.