SCWO organised the ASEAN Confederation of Women’s Organisations (ACWO) Masterclass, a 1½ day virtual masterclass, on 16 and 17 September 2020. The ACWO Masterclass is based on the ACWO Vision 2025 Statement and it reflects ACWO determination and commitment to work with women across all ASEAN Member States to bring the ASEAN Community Vision for 2025 into reality.
The 3 topics covered in the Masterclass – Advancing ASEAN Smart Nation Cities, Enhancing Quality of Women’s Lives in Ageing, and Women and Entrepreneurship have been chosen by the ACWO Members as the shared vision and goals that ACWO strive to work in concerted effort to provide an enabling environment for women and for the advancement of women in ASEAN.
Dr June Goh, President of ACWO, and Mr Richard Tan, Singapore Focal Point of the ASEAN Committee of Women, warmly welcomed the attendees of the Masterclass and emphasised on the pivotal role each and everyone in ACWO has in advocating for the women from all segments of society in ASEAN.
Session 1 – Advancing ASEAN Smart Nation Cities
We were honoured to have Ms Anne Lochoff, Former Senior Advisor of the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development, and Ms Gina Romero, CEO & Co-Founder of Connected Women as presenters. This session was moderated by Ms Jacqueline Chua, Assistant Honorary Treasurer of SCWO.
Ms Anne Lochoff emphasised that we should continue to leverage on technology and innovation to build Smart Nation Cities by empowering people to live meaningful and fulfilled lives in 4 key areas – supporting female entrepreneurs, creating gender responsive policies, creating food security in cities and lastly, reviewing legal frameworks that allow for a gender lens on city planning. This will enable us to build a more connected and inclusive city.
Ms Gina Romero shared on the women & the future of work and provided a case study on inclusive innovation in the Philippines. She expanded on the work done by Connected Women to develop solutions to create jobs for women in underserved and marginalized segments as well as those with the highest educational attainment in need of remote and flexible work.
Session 2 – Enhancing Quality of Women’s Lives in Ageing
For this session, we had Dr Kanwaljit Soin, practicing surgeon and Singapore’s first female Nominated Member of Parliament, and Ms Susana Harding, Senior Director of International Longevity Centre of Singapore as presenters. Ms Junie Foo, President of SCWO was the moderator.
Dr Kanwaljit Soin provided an overview of women and ageing in ASEAN and how ageing affects women more adversely than men. She also presented on how this awareness should lead to policy, community and individual change to ensure that both women and society are better prepared for our ageing future. It was emphasised that the issues ageing women face are issues that start from a young age, not during the silver years and actions need to be taken to enhance the quality of life for women as soon as we can to ensure that women are able to age well – physically, emotionally and financially. This can be achieved by changing social attitudes towards ageing, innovating age-friendly physical environments and calling for gender-mainstreaming and gender sensitive strategies in ageing policy.
Ms Susana Harding presented a case study on the success ageing initiatives implemented by Singapore and Tsao Foundation to ensure that women are able to age well and successfully. She focused on Tsao Foundation initiatives that aims to build an inclusive society for all ages that optimizes the opportunities in longevity, and strengthens inter-generational solidarity. It also strives to influence government related policies and industry practices through their advocacy efforts, as well as to advance a positive transformation of the ageing experience.
Session 3 – Women and Entrepreneurship
Lastly, we had Ms Michelle Cheo, CEO of Mewah International Inc and Ms Winnie Chan, CEO & Founder of Bynd Artisan for the last session. The moderators for this session were Mdm Rahayu Mohamed and Ms Pek Lay Peng, Board Members of SCWO.
Ms Michelle Cheo shared the importance of encouraging women entrepreneurial activities in ASEAN as entrepreneurs spur economic growth, add to national income, create social change and bring about community development. She also emphasised on the need for women entrepreneurs to build entrepreneurship networks because it would enable entrepreneurs to consolidate their credibility and trustworthiness with existing investors, and to build relationships with more diverse and substantial providers of capital.
Ms Winnie Chan presented a case study on Bynd Artisan – how Bynd Artisan managed to revitalise traditional craftmanship and the book binding trade, which was perceived as a sunset industry, into a business that continues to remain relevant in today’s climate, as well as how they managed to pivot their business in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. She also touched on strategies towards empowering and encouraging women entrepreneurial activities on a national, community and individual level.
The ACWO Masterclass was attended by more than 100 participants from 9 different countries, including Singapore. It was an enriching and fruitful event where the national coordinating body for women from 9 ASEAN countries, members of various ASEAN women organisations and representatives from the public and private sector were able to come together to discuss and raise awareness on women’s issues and to collaborate with each other to empower and advocate for women in ASEAN.
Ms Junie Foo, President of SCWO, closed the ACWO Masterclass and encouraged everyone to be vehicles of influence in their respective communities, workplaces and countries to build an empowering and inclusive society for all women, as well as to work with national governments, NGOs, and the community to make incremental leaps forward and to influence policies and ground-up initiatives to fulfil ACWO’s vision and goals for Year 2025.