In exactly 4 weeks, the SCWO Annual General Meeting will take place, see a new Board elected and a new President at its helm. Such renewal is healthy and desirable. It is important, however, for the outgoing Board to ensure that we leave SCWO in a heathy and desirable state and stronger than what it was when we came on board.
Whether we have managed to do that is really something for our members to judge. However, if there is a singular thing that we have managed to achieve during this term, it is to progress SCWO’s role in advocacy and speaking up on matters which matter to women, both internationally, regionally and locally.
UN ECOSOC Consultative Status
Firstly, SCWO now has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) which allows us to attend and contribute statements as well as take part in discussions such as the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) as well as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. First Vice-President, June Goh, and I attended the CSW59 in 2015 which coincided with the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. SCWO also submitted its Written Statement to CSW59 to the UN ECOSOC. We shall also be attending the 32nd Session of the Human Rights Council which will allow us to comment at the formal adoption of Singapore’s 2nd UPR later this month.
AICHR Consultative Relationship
I am also proud to inform members that we also have, at the 21st meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), been granted approval of a Consultative Relationship with AICHR. This means that SCWO will be able to engage with AICHR to further strengthen ASEAN cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and contribute meaningfully to the ASEAN community.
AWEN Focal Point
We are currently the Singapore focal point for the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) and has represented Singapore by nominating outstanding women entrepreneurs to the AWEN awards 2 years running and also contributed to the discussion on how AWEN can be leveraged upon as an organization to help women entrepreneurs as we move towards an ASEAN economic community.
ACWC Singapore CSO representative for Women
Finally, SCWO was chosen as the Singapore CSO representative for women to attend the Regional Consultation of the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children (ACWC) with CSOs on the Implementation of its Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Elimination of Violence Against Children held in end March this year.
APEC Women and the Economy Forum (WEF)
SCWO has continued to play a role in the above forum. In 2015, I was honoured to have been invited to participate as a speaker in the session on “Women and Inclusive Business” of the APEC Public Private Dialogue on Women and the Economy (PPDWE) in Manila. This high level forum is not only a wonderful platform on which to showcase what we have achieved in our Little Red Dot, but also to learn from other countries in the APEC community. I spoke on the topic of STEM in Singapore: Public Private People – Creating a Vibrant STEM Ecosystem for women and girls and was truly inspired by many of the stories shared during PPDWE Session on Young Women Leaders as Powerful Drivers of Change.
Our position as national Council representing 60 women’s organisations which literally span from A (AWARE) to Z(Zonta) and covers advocacy, business, professional women, community groups and diverse interest groups including ethnicity, religions and nationalities, places us well to be your representatives both on the world stage and at home. I also wish to acknowledge the support that our members have given us which allows us to run our various ongoing services e.g., SAWL with our legal clinics, ANZA Women with our New2U thrift shop etc.
When I came onto the Presidency, I wanted to ensure that there was adequate focus by SCWO on ageing women issues. However, I was also aware that other member organizations such as AWARE, WINGS and our associate member organization, the TSAO Foundation, were better resourced than us to highlight these issues.
Be that as it may, SCWO ensured that these issues did not escape our attention, and I am pleased to say that we managed to carry out the aims of Project RESPECT or Responsive Empowerment for a Secure and Positive Elder Community Transition in a comprehensive and holistic way.
During the last Board term, SCWO participated in the following events, issued statements and made comment as follows in fulfilment of the above project to respond appropriately on ageing issues:
- Meaningful Conversations @ WINGS: Empowering Older Women Together by Tsao-Foundation.
- IPS Forum on CPF and Retirement Adequacy by the Institute of Policy Studies.
- Social Conversation – Through the Eyes of the Elderly: Understanding the Unmet Social
- Needs of Senior Citizens in Singapore.
- First Multipartite Regional Meeting on the Financial Security of Older Women in East and Southeast Asia by the Tsao Foundation.
- Roundtable discussion: Do we need more programmes to address unmet/underserved needs of elderly by NCSS
- Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on Financial Adequacy for Retirement by CPF Advisory Panel
- The Women and Ageing Research Roundtable 2015 by AWARE and Tsao Foundation’s International Longevity Centre (ILC)
I wish to especially thank our co-opted Board Member, Triena Ong, who gamely attended the last 2 sessions which I was unable to and even gave an interview on Channel News Asia on the issue of retirement adequacy.
Additionally, at the Interactive Session 2B for Singapore’s 2nd UPR hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SCWO was invited to contribute to discussions on Ageing and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs); Women, Children and Family; and LGBT. At this meeting, I highlighted the challenges to retirement adequacy faced by single mothers and non-working mothers.
Finally, I was honoured to be appointed on the CPF Panel Advisory Panel to make recommendations on improvements to the CPF Scheme within certain Terms of Reference. In this regard, I spoke to recommendations towards securing the social security adequacy for non-working women who contributed to the homemaking including caring for the family such as their children and the aged. It was heartwarming to see recommendations encouraging members to make provision for non-working spouses by topping up their CPF make its way into the Panel’s Report, which was subsequent accepted by Government.
Joint CSO CEDAW Shadow Report
As coordinating Council, SCWO has many advantages, but also the unenviable challenge of having to balance the interest of all members against what is the right thing to do. This is the challenge that SCWO decided in 2015 to undertake when we proposed that we work on a joint civil society organisations (CSO) shadow report for CEDAW. We started with a training session on CEDAW for members and then with a proposal for a joint CSO Shadow Report. We have now embarked on this journey with groups working on draft reports in their interest areas, and we have included non-member CSOs in the process. As Immediate Past President in the next Board, I sincerely hope to see the project come into fruition in the coming term so that we can collectively form a strong voice on behalf of women in Singapore at the next UN CEDAW Meeting.
In my IWD Message, I have thanked my Board Members for their support and diligence.
I therefore dedicate this President’s Message to my heart-working SCWO Secretariat for supporting the work of myself as well as the SCWO Board and Committees 2014-2016.
Thank you for being the wind beneath our wings in helping us bring SCWO to another level of achievement.