Everyone needs compassion – especially those from marginalised and vulnerable communities. Services have to be available for all survivors of violence, regardless of their immigration status, sexual preference, mental and physical health. This was the message that was prevalent throughout the Asian Network of Women’s Shelters (ANWS) Conference on Inclusive Approaches to Shelter Work, held in Singapore for the first time on 8 and 9 September 2016.
SCWO, ANWS and The Garden of Hope Foundation Taiwan, organised this 2-day conference bringing together over 50 shelter leaders, family violence professionals and community partners from 27 organisations and 11 countries – Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Belgium and Singapore.
The programme included keynote speeches, presentations, panel discussions, group discussions, an art exhibition and a study tour of 3 shelters – Star Shelter, Casa Raudha and Family Care Centre. The delegates were grateful for the exclusive behind-the-scenes look at operational aspects of running crisis shelters in Singapore. They were impressed mostly by the commitment and compassion each shelter has towards vulnerable and marginalised survivors and making exceptions on compassionate grounds whenever possible.
An art exhibition, sponsored by MSF, in collaboration with Star Shelter, put on display at the conference, 30 local and 14 overseas art works by survivors of violence from Star Shelter and other shelters in Asia. Many were moved by the paintings which captured the survivors’ range of feelings, starting with their fears, struggles, sadness, and moving to happiness, determination, courage and most of all the hope that they have knowing that they can rebuild their lives free from violence. At the end of the walking tour, most of the delegates signed on a pledge board to make a commitment to ‘Break the Silence’, to speak up against violence.
After listening to inspiring keynotes, presentations and panel discussions from local and overseas speakers, and an exciting ice-breaker game, the delegates were raring to go – sharing their thoughts and ideas at a series of group discussions – World Café style. Discussing issues, goals, strategies and action plans for survivors from four communities of survivors, namely migrant wives, survivors with mental or physical disabilities and LBTQ survivors.
A plethora of ideas, strategies and action plans were generously shared by all the participants and summarised at the end of the conference as statements from the conference. The actionable items include increase public awareness through social media; provide training for practitioners and shelter providers; advocate for recognising the rights of vulnerable and marginalised women; build barrier-free facilities; build confidence through psychosocial counselling and have community follow-ups after survivor leaves the shelter.
Thank you to all the dedicated speakers and delegates who participated in this conference. Their contribution has made a positive impact in the lives of survivors living in shelters in Singapore and many other Asian countries!