It’s been a crazy year for women — social movements such as #TimesUp and more recently, the Brett Kavanaugh case in the US have grabbed global headlines and rightfully so. Here in Singapore, we have groups such as the Singapore Committee for UN Women (among others) that have been on the ground for years, working on tangents such as economic empowerment for women.
The Singapore Committee for UN Women celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and we’ve enlisted Hema Gokal and Madhavi Putcha, directors of partnerships and operations respectively, to give us the low-down on the work they do, and how they plan to celebrate the committee’s anniversary.
This year marks the 20th anniversary for the UN Women Singapore committee — how would you say the committee has changed over the years?
Hema: Our work has always focused on building awareness on gender equality in Singapore. However, we are now also addressing more specific and relevant issues related to the economic empowerment of women. We are working towards closing the economic gap by engaging organisations and individuals to support gender equality through our HeForShe campaign. It is not just talking about gender equality, it is about everybody taking action.
Madhavi: In addition, through our Girls2Pioneers programme we encourage young women and girls to pursue higher education and careers in STEM. The initiative aims to build a pipeline of female representation in STEM and leadership positions.
How does the committee intend to celebrate its 20th anniversary?
Madhavi: Our anniversary theme this year, ‘Gamechangers’ has been woven into our programmes and events for the year. We are celebrating the game-changing moments, milestones and people that are shaping us, Singapore and the region.
How would you assess the state of women’s affairs in Singapore currently? Has global events such as #MeToo had any local resonance?
Hema: There has been progress in Singapore towards empowering women and achieving gender equality. Women are becoming financially independent with a labour force participation of 59.8% in 2017, and are able to make decisions for themselves and their families. Global events have definitely resonated in Singapore. The #MeToo movement has captured the attention and raised awareness on sexual violence against women everywhere. The Singapore Committee for UN Women is empowering women and girls to challenge the status quo and pave the way for others to do the same.
What realistic measures can — at any level — help alleviate this?
Madhavi: The Singapore Committee for UN Women strives precisely to address these issues through its programmes. Our Help Anna campaign provides educational workshops to empower women to seek help against violence and abuse. Together with other women’s groups in Singapore, we recently welcomed the proposal to fully remove marital immunity for the offences of rape and sexual penetration of a minor. However, there is still more work to be done. We need to ensure women are aware of their rights and choices and their voices are heard.
Tell us more about the committee’s upcoming events that are open to the public — what can interested members of the public do to get involved?
Hema: Coming up is Buy To Save, an annual event that gathers the best pre-loved designer brands sold at an exclusive three-day pop-up sale. The proceeds will help our local campaign — Help Anna — to end violence and abuse against women. In addition the proceeds will also support women and girls in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where they continue to face the threat of violence and abuse. We hope to establish Multi-purpose Women’s Centres (MPWCs) providing safe and improved facilities, and support for livelihood and income-generating opportunities.
Madhavi: We will also continue to raise awareness through events under the 16 Days of Activism, a global campaign against gender-based violence. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.
Above, a small selection of the designer pieces that will be available next weekend at the Buy to Save sale.
October 26 – 28, 10am – 8pm
Forum the Shopping Mall, Basement 1 Atrium