The AWARE AGM 2009 — my personal take: beware of ST
From 21 Apr onwards: Please refer to http://we-are-aware.sg for future updates.
This is the closest to an official Old AWARE members website that is available. I can vouch for the website authors — they are the most reliable direct sources of information currently.
Edited 20th Apr :
Since the 11 Apr, the information obtained from both the public media, and importantly , 1st – hand information key AWARE members have convinced me that the New Exco has an agenda to silence the voice that espouses the values AWARE stands for.
See my latest post EDITED 19th APR. Please see this instead:
Having personally attended AWARE’s latest AGM, here is my personal take on it. I haven’t spoken to anyone within the organisation on this, it’s a completely personal and independent view.
“Unknowns knock out veterans at Aware polls
Caught off-guard by big turnout, longtime members lose to fresh faces
By Wong Kim Hoh “
Having being at the AGM, i’m actually wondering, what is ST’s purpose in angle-ing the story that way.
and more importantly, since ST is the mouthpiece of the govt
what is the govt trying to contain?
what is the govt trying to tell the public about AWARE?
what is the impact of this report on ppl who are getting their info by simply reading that report?
we made a big impact last year with the sexual harrassment case you know?
It seems from the report that this group is trying to take over
without having made any contributions
and internet chatter says this group is anti-gay as well….
If i didn’t know how the ST is a propaganda tool, i would put it down to bad journalism
I know that from time-to-time, listening to the old members, we’ve heard war stories about the govt interfering in AWARE.
I just took a look at our achievements:
It seems to me that all our achievements have to do only either a very small segment of society eg. Female medical students, or else a powerless/disenfranchised group with little political impact eg citizen ship for female’s children when the male is a foreigner. And that too is in line with our population policy. Stuff like men and women being “heads of households” are very philosophical, little political impact.
The only exception is probably “ 2005 equalisation of benefits in the current medical scheme in the Civil Service for male and female officers”. I wasn’t that politically conscious then , so I don’t really know, but I’m curious to know what was the govt response during then. But that “problem” is not really something people were shocked by —- we all knew about the unequal benefits for the longest time already!!!! I believe we also did something to raise the awareness of how CPF is biased against women in their old age. That’s something to look at too.
Over the last couple of years, the last Exco, headed by Constance Singam, JooHymn, they’ve made a conscious, intended effort to mainstream the issues we deal with.
That means, instead of just limiting issues to HIV positive women, or domestically abused women, or poor body image, they’re talking about Work-Life Balance. And the extremely high impact Sexual Harrassment at the workplace. So suddenly, its not a group of helpless women who have been marginalised. The issues are about every woman. We’re continuing to go down that road — there was that report about Sexual Harrassment on public transport systems being common. And from what I’ve heard, the Sexual Harrassment issue has gained ears all the way up in the govt echelons. Stuff like that galvanises mass support — something which can be seen as a threat to political power. We could see the rise of a women’s voting bloc which has been so conspicuously absent in Singapore, as opposed to many other 1st world nations.
Issues like this also motivate more people to join AWARE. When issues affect you, when you see a group that goes beyond the “charity for helpless” model, and actually does something effectively for the mainstream, people start to feel like this is an effective platform where they too, can DO something about things. I would expect that our membership increases greatly. And as with most NGOs, it will be made up of the “victims”. This time, the “victims” are not the marginalised women. They are the powerful women who have work-life balance issues, they are the women who went through the corporate world dealing with sexual harassment. These are women with achievements, and they see another platform where they can contribute. These are women, who have succeeded in life, because their work-style is , ‘I’m coming into the room, don’t waste my time, let’s get down to work, I’ve been an effective leader outside, and I know how we should do things here to make it better, so put me on Exco’
While what the report said was true, about the questions asked on religion and homosexuality, I think the report focused on this and nothing else. I felt it was part of a normal and healthy debate, that you hardly find with the general apathetic Singaporean population, but was very expected with a group of very enthusiastic , powerful women, who were far from apathetic, who joined Aware because they wanted to do something.
Why do I think religion became an issue? I think it just goes with the general trend of the changing microculture that’s evolving over the last few years. Religion vs secularism is becoming increasing loud and polarised in general, and globally. When you have an organisation dealing with sexuality, with women’s rights, with homosexuality (to a certain extent, though we’ve never wanted to be flag bearers in this respect), you can expect religion to be brought up.
Why was homosexuality brought up? Look at it in the context of other issues that were also brought up equally loudly, : Time Management and commitment, experience, feminist thought, continuity vs innovation, past achievements, ……. Homosexuality is just another point that would naturally come up in a feminist organisation! I realise there seems to be some suggestion of them being anti-gay.
Here’s my take.
When AWARE deals with issues of marginalised women, you tend to attract all sorts of marginalised women into the organisation, and homosexual-rights-crusaders are a major group. These people are still there, and they want to make sure AWARE still has non-discriminatory policies.
Then when AWARE mainstreams, you attract mainstream women, and strong mainstream women too, who are of a certain level of age and achievement. Such women tend to see feminism as the movement to “protect and fight” for the rights of women in general, in the mainstream, against the male chauvinists. In general, Singaporean mainstream women also tend to be conservative, safe and pro-family values ( where do you think work-life-balance, and anti-sexual-harrassment comes from??? ). Am I surprised that they have conservative views where homosexuality is concerned? Absolutely not. Will this be good for AWARE/ Singapore? I don’t know. Will there be a drive AGAINST homosexuality? I really don’t know, but I suspect they are busy people and would rather invest their time achieving their pet goals instead of being out to get a certain group in society. Remember, they brought up their views in response to questions, and a lot of other background material was the ST-Journalist’s own research and portrayal. But more importantly , was there a concerted anti-gay conspiracy ? I think you need to have a very good imagination, and be psychotically paranoid to believe that.
Was there a conspiracy?
Here’s why I am quite certain there isn’t.
Most people only knew a couple of candidates out of the many that stood for election
We had a round of election speeches, followed by the elections. By the time voting was done, people could hardly remember who was who, who said what, and we needed to introduce the candidates separately before voting again! I suppose that if it’s a conspiracy, people would at least KNOW most of the candidates ? Could the 100 voters there be faking ignorance to orchestrate the conspiracy? Possible, but how believable !??!?! In Singapore, where 100 middle aged women gather, and they all had discussions AND acting lessons before hand???? It was a very democratic, transparent process. Votes were by “raise of hands” rather than secret ballots, meaning that you couldn’t even claim rigged vote counting!
Also, the people who were voted in were GENUINELY and VERY SIGNIFICANTLY better than some of those who were NOT voted in. I was one of the candidates who was NOT voted in, and I will be the first to admit this fact. As for some of the “old guard” who were not voted in, I would say that the margins were SO close that I hardly think there was a conspiracy. When you have 100 women voting openly, assuming they were not OSCAR winning actresses, and the chosen person won by a 60-40 margin, I don’t see that as a conspiracy. It could have swung both ways, and would be very hard to control.
One last issue I want to bring up, again on why I think there might be a reason to contain AWARE’s influence and support base. Human trafficking, migrant worker abuses, are becoming a HUGE issue in Singapore, one that the State does not openly admit to. I’m not going to detail it here, but you would be able to find much info just by googling, or following some of the other websites. TOC did a brilliant coverage last year.
AWARE writes the CEDAW shadow report to be submitted to the UN. Prostitution and human trafficking is a big issue, and the info we are gathering could be unsettling. I see that as a great motivation for containment.
So in conclusion, I think we must think about WHY the ST report was written, rather than focusing on why what happened, happened.
Here’s a snippet of MSN conversation that I’m including on my take of the election outcome.
11/4/2009 12:51:36 AM B mathia wat happened to AWARE??
11/4/2009 12:53:24 AM B mathia http://thinkingbetterthinkingmeta.blogspot.com/2009/04/are-you-aware-of-aware.html
11/4/2009 12:58:27 AM mathia B i was there
11/4/2009 12:59:27 AM B mathia wats your take on what happened
11/4/2009 12:59:33 AM B mathia i assume u don’t know the new pple
11/4/2009 12:59:48 AM mathia B honestly, it was the 1st AGM i ever went to
11/4/2009 1:00:06 AM B mathia so u didnt have much expectations
11/4/2009 1:00:20 AM mathia B kind of
11/4/2009 1:00:47 AM mathia B but i don’t know if the “old members” are being sharp and perceptive that there’s a “conspiracy”
11/4/2009 1:00:54 AM mathia B or simply that they feel threatened
11/4/2009 1:01:09 AM mathia B whether or not there is a conspiracy
11/4/2009 1:01:26 AM mathia B or if the activities we did in the past yr have succeeded in drawing new members
11/4/2009 1:01:44 AM mathia B and like most new members of any org, they are simply a lot more enthusiastic
11/4/2009 1:02:19 AM mathia B because frankly. the new members that stood for election and won, were genuinely of better quality, when you look at it objectively
11/4/2009 1:02:38 AM mathia B i don’t know the affiliations of the ST reporter
11/4/2009 1:02:42 AM B mathia i see
11/4/2009 1:02:44 AM mathia B it sounds very biased to me
11/4/2009 1:02:55 AM mathia B where does your interest come from?
11/4/2009 1:02:57 AM B mathia yeah it suggested that they had an agenda
11/4/2009 1:03:10 AM B mathia mostly curiosity
11/4/2009 1:03:17 AM B mathia a bit of concern
11/4/2009 1:04:03 AM mathia B concern? why?
11/4/2009 1:04:32 AM B mathia if, as the article suggests, that there’s something bad going on, then i’m naturally concerned
11/4/2009 1:04:46 AM mathia B something bad???
11/4/2009 1:04:47 AM B mathia hard to explain why beyond that
11/4/2009 1:04:53 AM mathia B it doesn’t sound like something bad is going on
11/4/2009 1:04:56 AM B mathia say a conspiracy or watever
11/4/2009 1:05:07 AM mathia B it sounds like something the current old gaurd does not like……….
11/4/2009 1:05:52 AM B mathia that’s something for sure
11/4/2009 1:06:49 AM B mathia but there’s the ‘evidence’ that most of them are anti gay
11/4/2009 1:08:14 AM mathia B but AWARE has never really pushed gay rights to start with. And its never been a priority or mission to. Plus, it could be the journalist’s angle
11/4/2009 1:08:55 AM B mathia of course – ST in particular. i don’t trust ST
11/4/2009 1:09:00 AM B mathia that’s why i’m asking u
11/4/2009 1:10:00 AM mathia B i’m a simple person………. or maybe ignorant……….. but i would go with my interpretation of our new member drive just being very successful in the last few months , and new members being more enthusiastic
11/4/2009 1:10:14 AM mathia B the reason why i think thats the case?
11/4/2009 1:10:42 AM mathia B i think over the last 2 yrs, there has been a intended drive to mainstream the issues AWARE deals with
11/4/2009 1:10:51 AM mathia B so as opposed to dealing with Abused women
11/4/2009 1:11:08 AM mathia B we were dealing with work place sexual harrassment. Work life balance
11/4/2009 1:11:28 AM mathia B you can see how the 2 different issues would attract 2 different crowds
11/4/2009 1:11:40 AM mathia B and how ppl in the 2nd case would be a bit more mainstream
11/4/2009 1:12:12 AM mathia B and how ppl who have achieved a certain level of success might be in the age group where they are very strongly female-rights-at-the-expense-of-men
11/4/2009 1:12:23 AM mathia B and not completely supportive of gay rights
11/4/2009 1:13:12 AM B mathia and were there problems with the old guard?
11/4/2009 1:14:47 AM mathia B with every volunteer group of super strong women,
11/4/2009 1:14:57 AM mathia B you could always see things wrong with people
11/4/2009 1:15:04 AM mathia B i think it was a matter of
11/4/2009 1:15:34 AM mathia B “i know what’s wrong with her” vs ” I don’t know anything about her” and so i’ll rather go with the 2nd choice and hope
11/4/2009 1:16:59 AM B mathia well i was trying to see if there were some disatisfaction with the old guard
11/4/2009 1:17:45 AM mathia B the general way that s’poreans like to complain
11/4/2009 1:17:48 AM mathia B but then again
11/4/2009 1:18:03 AM mathia B i’m looking from a point of ignorance. Really bad with insider gossip
11/4/2009 1:19:13 AM B mathia you’re just blur
11/4/2009 1:19:14 AM B mathia
11/4/2009 1:19:57 AM mathia B you summed it up i think …..= )hehehheeh
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