Dr Thio Su Mien shares her role:
Good evening. I'm here as feminist mentor to women in the workplace. In the last 10 years I've been encouraging women so that they become, released into society, to contribute to society. And it's not an easy task to get women because of the work balance to contribute.
Having found this group of women, quite disparate group, because I teach all over Singapore and I counsel all over Singapore and training people and I was able to...system in... I'm outraged. I'm absolutely outraged that very group of women take time off to contribute to society they get this kind of ferocious attack.
I don't understand what has come of our people. In my counselling practice I find that many of our young men and women are... They're very wounded, they're very hurt. And there's this rage that's in them... But I never expected the degree and the level of attack of people which has served the community. So I'm just wondering what is the cause of this ferocity in attacking people.
Aware was formed 26 years ago by my friends, my contemporaries. And it's done great work in so many areas. And in 1998, membership was about 700 odd, which was very well. Suddenly in 2006 it sort of declined; 2007, it declined to 200 odd people. And in 2008 there was an AGM where they sought to introduce to give men the vote in a women's organisation where the objective is to represent all the women of Singapore and not a small proportion of women.
And you know that women form about 50% of our population. So we must focus our attention on promotion of the rights of women. To my horror I found that they want to introduce men into a women's society. And the very strange thing was that at that meeting there were only 25 members who turned up at that meeting - AGM 2008.
So I started looking into the affairs of Aware to see what's happening to this organisation which my friends have set up. And not only have they set it up and my name is here, one of the women we honoured, because I was a pioneer feminist. I was first law dean. Subsequent years, probably a female, woman who runs one of the largest law firms in Singapore. But I sit on the boards of many public listed companies.
I was also at one time a member of the Asian Development Board tribunal. And I was also judge of the World Bank. I served it for 8 years and retired as senior VP of the World Bank administrative tribunal...with some standing to speak about this because in Cedaw this is this thing about promoting women into positions of leadership.
And under...there is this 30 to 35% rule which I thought, wow, we have a legal document whereby we can promote the cause of women, bring all the young women into leadership positions. But with the economic crisis there's also this desire to help those who are disadvantaged. When women and men are retrenched, we want to make sure that not women are retrenched. There needs to be an even hand in this.
So there are many many issues that we need to look to. And I find to my dismay that Aware seems to be only very interested on...and the advancement of homosexuality, which is a man's issue and how it came under Aware is quite covert. ...when Aware sponsored the film Spider Lilies. Spider Lilies is a film by 2 lesbians who fell in love. One is a tattooist and the only one is a virtual sex worker.
When a parent saw this film... He wrote to Today and he asked why is Aware showing this film because he's got a teenage daughter. I think it really troubled him. And lo and behold...is that this is part of a comprehensive sexual education. So then it became kind of important that they should know what is in this programme.
And this programme is already in schools, 30 schools whereby they are using this programme. But from what she said, the suggestion is that in this programme, young girls from 12 to 18 are taught that it's ok to experiment with each other. And this is something which...parents in Singapore. Are we going to have an entire...of lesbians?
I have nothing against lesbians or homosexuals personally. On a personal front, I've given ministered, I've counselled them. So you need to understand I'm not talking about... They are in pain. And very often...where you have abusive fathers, they do things with their daughters and the daughters revolt, rebel against society. We understand this is what it's all about. It's the people, the pain of people...
So if you need proof that Aware has actually moved to...you have this male sexual programmes and workshops which was inducted under the auspices of Aware in 2008 by a Finnish activist and he was talking about the sensitivity.
So my point is that can we refocus on the excellent objectives of Aware? Go back to its original purpose for it...for it being an NGO? So I leave that because I think I've just raised a comment.
Josie Lau shares Aware's aim:
Again, in my last interview, I said Aware has lost its focus but I think I was being very polite when I said that. It has really not lost its focus but I think it has gone further than that, much, much further than that. It has now become a single-objective organisation.
So that's what the new team is here to do: we want to bring Aware back to its original very noble objective which is to represent all women, to advance their cause, all women whatever religion and race in areas such as professional development, their private life, their health and Singapore does have an Asian population. We need to look at the ageism, all the problems. Look at women who have some slight diabetes the minute they hit certain age, their insurance premium no longer make any sense for them.
So we should be pushing those cause and I think with almost 50 per cent of our population in Singapore being women we really have to refocus back on our bread and butter issue where everyday women on the street cares about. So, I think we want, we are really serious about getting started on our work but we haven't been able to do so for the last three weeks and I hope from this press conference the new team can start to work seriously on how we could bring this association to a higher level of recognition amongst the Singaporean woman.
Contention about whether Aware is only for women:
Aware is an association for women. The men do not need the women to fight for them, to fight for more rights or to have state-funded artificial insemination or other benefits.
Comprehensive sexual education and Aware's activities:
I would like to go on to a few points because of all this intense episodes, I went to do some further research of what Aware has done over the past few years. Besides...which was one thing, the other point was the comprehensive sexual education. This has been reached out to 30 schools. And in the schools they taught them things like, okay, homosexualism...
I'm not sure whether parents know what their children are learning. In addition to these points, we talked about Mother's Day. What is your idea of Mother's Day. If Aware is an all-encompassing organisation, how did we celebrate Mother's Day? In 2006, Aware celebrated Mother's Day by inviting lesbian-friendly mothers and lesbian bosses to talk about their experience.
When Aware wanted to conduct health education courses, they wanted to warn women about HIV, they invited Alex Au, the once famous homosexual activist from Yawning Bread to talk about HIV. Now in addition last year 2008 Constance Singam spoke of membership to...in the month of July 2008 and she also publicised in Aware newsletter that she's going to talk to SG Butterfly which is a group of Queer Women, transvestite women.