I applied for the internship in hopes of learning more about my own identity as a woman, something which I felt that I was not sufficiently taking charge of, especially when this issue was garnering increasing attention. I decided that SCWO was going to be the first step in which I actively sought to find out more about what it meant to be a woman in Singapore. During my 3-month stint in SWHF, the names of so many impressive women I was previously ignorant of were gradually imprinted in my mind. Reading their profiles detailing their endeavours and hardship opened my eyes to a world of possibilities, be it in politics, healthcare or business. I would even mentally jot down small learning points like “Find one thing you’re passionate in and keep working at it.” I found myself engaging my friends in conversations about inspiring women inducted into the Hall of Fame and they would frequently respond with sheepish smiles and shake their heads when I asked if they knew women like ‘Teo Soon Kim’ or ‘Chan Choy Siong’. My own epiphany about SWHF is that, it is not so much about bringing fame and glory to these women but to spread their life stories, empowering other women like me to challenge their limits and preconceptions.
Although SCWO is not as strongly associated with advocacy work as other organisations like AWARE, its work is no less important. It was in SCWO where I got exposed to a whole spectrum of programmes catering to women. In the office, I could hear the MSC department attending to maintenance enquiries and they would also stay back to facilitate legal clinics. STAR shelter residents also dropped by the office often to report to their counsellors and sometimes just for a listening ear. The pantry was also more patronised than usual whenever the residents shared their handmade snacks in appreciation. From time to time, I would also see dedicated volunteers packing up the thrift shop’s storage room. I am thankful for being able to witness this eco-system where women readily offered a helping hand to other women in need, both directly and indirectly, in a multitude of ways.
One day, I stood in for a museum sitter and had a “rite of passage” kind of conversation with another sitter. The question was classic, “Are you a feminist?”. The point is not whether I have arrived at an answer to that question. The point is, it is through my internship at SCWO that I have started to be more involved in conversations like this and acquainted with the myriad of perspectives other women hold. I even recently approached a friend, who has always been very open and vocal about being a feminist, for her opinion. I used to refrain myself from doing so because I lacked the confidence and knowledge to engage her in her pet topic. My knowledge is still less than satisfactorily, yet this internship experience has filled some of that knowledge gap. It has also granted me the courage and humility to start admitting that I indeed do not know enough, and that I can and should do more.
Zhang Fengfang, Political Science Student