The new year is a time when we build on our reflections and past experiences to create a more constructive future for ourselves and the people around us. Here at UNIFEM, we've had a good year, not only celebrating our 10th anniversary but also launching several initiatives and projects that we hope will contribute towards our longstanding commitment to promote gender equality and improve the lives of women in Singapore and the region.
Amongst these projects were the SNOW Benefit to raise money for women in Aceh, as well as "Buy To Save", a pre-loved designer fashion charity sale that was organised to help raise funds for various initiatives designed to help empower women caught in the web of violence. With the momentum built from the success of these events, we hope to usher in 2010 with newer initiatives that we hope will continue to broaden our outreach to the public.
To kick off the new year, we draw attention to various issues that lie at the heart of our cause: We highlight works that emphasise the urgency of eliminating violence against women in UNIFEM Recommends and we also bring you the reports from our latest events, each championing a unique aspect of our work in empowering women.
Help us keep UNIFEM Singapore going by supporting our fundraising events, attending our film screenings, or simply by participating in discussions on our Facebook page! Your support will go a long way in helping us assist women in the region. If you're interested in joining UNIFEM Singapore as a volunteer, please fill in the online application form here.
UNIFEM Seeks Funding to Provide Shelter and Services for Women in Haiti
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has issued a call for close to US$2 million to provide urgently needed services for the protection of women and their families. In particular, UNIFEM seeks to rebuild women's shelters and expand the provision of emergency services for women.
The call for funding is made through the system-wide flash appeal for US$562 million that was issued by the United Nations on 15 January 2010. In order to meet the urgent need for the protection of women and their communities, UNIFEM is also calling upon its National Committees and supporters worldwide to strengthen these fund-raising efforts and boost UNIFEM programming in Haiti.
As part of the overall UN effort in the country, the UNIFEM team in Haiti will work alongside NGO partners to strengthen services to victims of gender-based violence and their families in women's centres and temporary shelters in Port au Prince and Jacmel. The money raised will go towards a range of efforts from emergency community-based violence prevention programmes to repairing damage of existing centres and providing humanitarian aid like emergency supplies, staff and counselling services in communities most affected. UNIFEM will also focus on coordination efforts to ensure that emergency and early recovery assessment and assistance incorporate a gender perspective to adequately address the differentiated needs of women, men and children.
UNIFEM's work on the ground shows that too often natural disasters result in greater household and institutional instability and to increasing women's vulnerability to violence, abuse and sexual exploitation. "This terrible humanitarian disaster is likely to impact girls, boys, women and men in different ways," UNIFEM Executive Director Ines Alberdi said. "UNIFEM is committed along with its partners and the UN system to working to ensure that attention is given to addressing these differential impacts and in particular for ensuring the personal security of women and girls."
To donate towards UNIFEM's work in Haiti please go to the homepage of UNIFEM's global website. The donation will be made in USD, but we have tested that a Singapore credit card works.
UNIFEM At Work: Coming Soon
The HOPE bag - A Special Partnership
UNIFEM Singapore, collaborating with Charles & Keith, has launched specially-designed bags hand-made by women living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia to support these women and their families through this income-generating work.
Every HOPE bag is hand-woven with the many hopes of the HIV positive women in Cambodia for a better life. This bag is made of straws that make it resilient, just like how the AIDS/HIV-infected women stay strong and persevere in life. Designed in an exquisite basket shape, each straw bag carries your kind gestures and delivers it to the brave and courageous women in Cambodia. HOPE is available in brilliant orange and elegant black, which matches easily with any contemporary look.
The HOPE bag will be available in all Charles & Keith stores in Singapore from 1st December onwards, in conjunction with the World's Aids Day. The launch of the HOPE bag also coincides with the Christmas holiday season which is also the best time to get the perfect gift with a worthy cause for your loved ones. Your compassionate act of purchasing a HOPE bag during this holiday season will help gather more kind proceeds to benefit UNIFEM and the Cambodian women. In addition, for every HOPE bag charged to your MasterCard, a kind donation of $2 will be made to UNIFEM by MasterCard.
UNIFEM would also like to extend its greatest appreciation to Asian Tiger K.C.Dat who delivered the HOPE from Cambodia to Singapore with love and generousity.
UNIFEM In Conversation Series - Mony Pen
UNIFEM Singapore, in conjunction with Cambodian Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (CCW) and home-grown shoe brand shoe brand Charles & Keith Group, was honoured to host Ms. Mony Pen, activist and advocate for HIV-positive women in Cambodia, as a guest speaker for the UNIFEM In Conversation Series on October 23rd at our Nassim Road headquarters.
Ms. Mony Pen assumes strategic positions in various organisations such as:
She has devoted her life to helping women living with AIDS through education and outreach programmes in Cambodia with the aims of improving their quality of life, reducing public stigma and discrimination, and ensuring access to treatment and care for all.
Ms. Mony Pen was here to draw attention to the plight of women stricken by AIDS as well as to launch a line of straw bags made by The Modern Dress Sewing Factory, a CCW operation that employs Cambodian women living with HIV/AIDS, and Charles & Keith Group has pledged to donate all net sales proceeds to key beneficiary CCW and assist the organisation in promoting HIV/AIDS awareness through media releases and informational brochures at select Charles & Keith locations. The bags will be officially launched on World AIDS day on December 1st, and the bags will be available for purchase for a limited time at all Charles & Keith stores island wide.
The event, which saw the coming together of over 30 participants, kicked off with a simple reception followed by an inspiring dialogue session hosted by Ms. Pamela Ho, who engaged Ms. Mony Pen in conversation with regards to the personal and poignant experiences she had promoting her cause of raising HIV/AIDS awareness and lobbying for a platform for HIV positive women to seek help without feeling stigmatized.
During the dialogue session, Ms. Mony Pen related how she was stricken with the disease and narrated her journey and fight to be the strong and inspiring social activist whom she is now. She also shared candidly with members of the audience on her long terms goals for the future and her key pillars of emotional strength on her journey. The questions raised by Ms. Pamela Ho during the dialogue session included the challenges faced by HIV-positive women in Cambodia, her work with CCW, the future strategic directions of CCW as well as the support that organisations may render to CCW. The insightful dialogue session gave participants a glimpse into the work undertaken by CCW and it is undeniable that participants went home with more information about CCW.
UNIFEM Singapore is grateful to all our valued participants and wonderful volunteers for their time, presence and participation - in sharing our vision in supporting programmes that aim at assisting women to gain access to finance, technology and information for better control over their lives. This includes the UNIFEM In Conversation Series, which is an initiative promoting an open dialogue of women's issues within our community as well as a platform for creating and galvanising member support with UNIFEM campaigns.
We would like to say a big thank you to all participants and presenters for making this event possible. We also look forward to an even more successful UNIFEM In Conversation Series in the months to come.
UNIFEM In Conversation Series - Anshu Gupta
UNIFEM Singapore was honoured to host Mr Anshu Gupta-Founder/Director of GOONJ, for the UNIFEM In Conversation Series on 6th Oct at the INSEAD Campus, Singapore.
GOONJ is a grassroots initiative working towards redistributing surplus clothing and resources and redirecting them into rural areas in India. GOONJ collects used clothes and creates recycling and distribution channels, and establishes industry and community relations to reach and assist a wide network of people.
Mr Anshu Gupta is an Ashoka Fellow and recipient of mltiple prestigious awards such as the Indian NGO of the Year (March 2008), World Bank's Development Market Place Award (May 2007), Changemakers Innovation Award (2009, 2006, 2004).
The event, hosted by UNIFEM Singapore and co-organised by GOONJ, INSEAD, and the INDEVOR Club saw the coming together of over 30 participants, most of whom were active members of the community who were passionate about pressing societal issues and environmental concerns.
Centering on the themes of economic empowerment and leadership in developing nations, the event kicked off with a simple reception followed by an insightful presentation by Mr Anshu Gupta who shared personal experiences, observations, insights and milestones of GOONJ.
During the presentation, Mr Anshu Gupta talked about GOONJ's effective collaborations with other organisations, the impact of GOONJ's work in the rural areas of India and he also shared candidly the success of 'Cloth for work' with members of the audience.
The entire experience was deeply interactive and informative, designed as a series of talking points and photo opportunities to maximise press coverage. After the presentation, Ms. Saleemah Ismail, President of UNIFEM Singapore initiated the dialogue session by inviting questions from the audience who took the opportunity to ask Mr Anshu Gupta questions. Issues raised during the dialogue session included the challenges that he faced, his motivations for starting GOONJ and the applications of GOONJ's business model in Singapore's context.
The event ended with a simple but scrumptious spread of refreshments as well as an informal exhibition showcasing innovative products made of reused paper and cloth such as notebooks, wallets and bags. The exhibition gave participants a glimpse into how GOONJ has evolved over the years and it is undeniable that participants of the UNIFEM conversation series went home with more information about GOONJ and having had the excellent time to mingle, learn and share from one another.
UNIFEM Singapore is grateful to all our valued participants and wonderful volunteers for their time, presence and participation - in sharing our vision in supporting programmes that aim at assisting women to gain access to finance, technology and information for better control over their lives. This includes the UNIFEM In Conversation Series which is an initiative promoting an open dialogue of women's issues within our community as well as a platform for creating and galvanising member support with UNIFEM campaigns.
We would like to say a big thank you to all participants and presenters for making this event possible. We also look forward to an even more successful UNIFEM In Conversation Series in the months to come.
UNIFEM Film Series - Provoked
Hindu legend has it that Kannagi had cursed the city of Madurai and set it on fire as a revenge to king's injustice. This story sings the song of women empowerment back in the 13th century. Sadly, today in the 21st century there are plenty of reasons to continue singing the song more so louder than ever before.
On November 12th UNIFEM Singapore in partnership with INSEAD, AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) and SCWO (Singapore Council of Women's Organisations) marked the International Day to End Violence Against Women, which falls annually on November 25th.
The event began with featuring a movie, 'Provoked - A true story', a true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, whose book 'Circle of life' forms the basis of the movie. Set in late 1980s in UK it tells a story of an Indian migrant woman who is financially dependant on her husband. She is 'provoked' after 10 years of constant physical and sexual abuse from her husband and sets him ablaze. Ironically, her battered life by then had reached such extremity that when sentenced to life for killing her husband - she felt 'free'. Her cultural and educational background forbids her from standing up for her own rights for an appeal. She didn't want her 'private life to go public' - even if that were to win her freedom for real.
"A woman is a toy. Broken at will, stuck together at will", she would say.
In the end, with timely help from others she re-appeals. Kiranjit Ahluwalia, in real life went on to win Asian Woman of Courage Award from Cheri Blair in 2001.
The message of the movie was clear - women empowerment; help women who are in need especially those who are uneducated, financially dependant and who are ashamed to file a complaint. Ms Dana Lam, President of AWARE who addressed the audience shortly after the movie mentioned that domestic violence is not limited to lower economic groups and how even in a progressive society such as Singapore, there is an increase in abuse especially by boyfriends.
Just like Kiranjit in the movie, women are usually embarrassed to report any kind of physical or sexual abuse. According to Ms Azrahayu Ahmad Afandi, Manager at SCWO, campaigns to end domestic violence have encouraged women to come forward in the recent past. She mentioned how neighbours can play an active role by reporting any violent behaviours in their community. Apart from other services, her organisation provides shelter for abused women and has housed about 1500 local and foreign women.
The event concluded stressing that there is help available to women who suffer from domestic violence - all they need to do is to seek it. More information on AWARE and SCWO can be found in their websites www.aware.org.sg and www.scwo.org.sg respectively.
UNIFEM SNOW Gala - A SNOWstorm of Support to Empower Women in Aceh
Some might even call it a miracle. In the midst of a crippling recession, volunteers raised over 125,00 dollars. During the year's most hectic month,over 200 high-profile guests gathered for a single cause. And despite scorching weather conditions outdoors, an eminent chef concocted a six-course banquet inspired by snow and ice.
Supernatural or not, it's the story of the 2009 UNIFEM SNOW (Say No to Oppression of Women) Gala. It's the story of how celebrities, artists, ambassadors, bankers, and veteran volunteers collaborated on December 2nd to help cause bigger than themselves... and had a ball doing it.
"It's an honor and a pleasure to host the event for the 3rd time," said Conrad Centennial Singapore GM Heinrich Grafe. Lynn Yeow, Director of Ate Consulting, explained that supporting UNIFEM is a longstanding tradition for her, while artist Manjeet Shergill materializes her dedication by donating exquisite pieces to be auctioned off each year. The vivacious, diverse crowd encompassed personalities from Grace Chew, Mrs. Singapore World 2009, toVivek Goyal, Managing Director of Fitch Ratings, to Johannes W. Gunivortus Jansing, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The animated evening included en entertainment extravaganza by Singapore stars, quirky competitions, and a speech by UNIFEM Singapore President Ms. Saleemah Ismail. UNIFEM's indefatigable team of volunteers also prepared an auction of unique art and a poignant video depicting UNIFEM's mission, sparking a plethora of vivid discussions among the glamorously clad guests.
But amid the sparkle of glitzy evening attire and champagne flutes, the focus was on empowering women. Funds raised go toward creating sustainable governance and peace in Aceh, Indonesia, which has suffered over 30 years of civil conflict, as well as irreparable devastation from the 2004 tsunami, and sustained violence and discrimination against women. Women's crisis centers and training programs will offer hope and vital support to the women of Aceh as they rebuild their lives, families, and communities.
"I'm here because women's rights and health are paramount," said Choo Beng Goh of GlaxoSmithKline, while Kanchan Kanwar, Manager of Intercontinental Hotel, called the event "the ideal combination of friends, fun, and an undeniably worthy cause." "At the end of the day, it's about helping women," said Yash Mishra of IPAC Financial Planning. "Their power to have a positive impact is infinite."
Thanks to the 2009 UNIFEM SNOW Gala, the women of Aceh will now have a chance to unleash that infinite positive impact. Some might even call it a miracle.
UNIFEM Buy To Save Sale
Hundreds of UNIFEM friends and the Singapore community visited the InterContinental Hotel to add style with a conscience to their wardrobe!
On the 12-13 December, UNIFEM Singapore, together with main sponsors Club 21, InterContinental Singapore, MasterCard, L'Oreal, Harper's BAZAAR, The Singapore Women's Weekly, CLEO, and ZoCard held its bi-annual charity designer fashion sale called "Buy To Save" at the InterContinental Singapore. The event was open to the public and raised $85,000 in proceeds.
The Hotel InterContinental's packed conference room had a steady stream of men and women throughout the event in search of gently used designer clothes, shoes, and other accessories add to their collection of fashion items to wear in the new year. After the final sale of the two day event Pia Bruce, General Manager, UNIFEM, thanked the brigade of volunteers and
Ms. Saleemah Ismail, President, UNIFEM Singapore, said "I feel heartened by the response of the community and our sponsors. Club 21 has been fantastic by inviting its more than 20,000 customers to participate in the "Give to Save" event. Club 21 hosted the "Give To Save" event at its Club 21 store in the Forum on the 19th to 22nd of November. Club 21 along with Mastercard and UNIFEM volunteers collected, sorted, and tagged all the donated merchandise."
The Proceeds from Buy To Save 2009 will go to funding UNIFEM Singapore effort to End Violence against Women using a three-pronged approach. UNIFEM developed a range of tools that will address the long, medium, and short term aspects of this vicious cycle, UNIFEM Singapore is committed to following approaches:
Donation of PCs to UNIFEM
UNIFEM Singapore would like to extend our gratitude to CSC for their generous donation of ten Personal Computers to our office.
For more than 50 years, we at CSC have developed smart, technology-enabled solutions to solve our clients' toughest challenges, demonstrating a commitment to excellence and a passion for exceeding expectations.
Over the past five decades, technology has radically changed the world we live in. We have remained at the forefront of our business because we have understood how to use technology change and innovation to deliver value to our clients.
Our office manager, Ms.Mellisa Chong, with representatives from CSC.
Text: Baey Shi Chen, Virginia Brumby, Lynne Hong Enlin, Karthik Jagannathan
Images: Khairi Boyani (InBloom Photos)
Say No to Violence. Say No to Rape.
The 'No to Rape' campaign seeks to make marital rape a crime in Singapore.
Launched recently on 1 July 2009, the organisers are calling for a petition to the Prime Minister to repeal two instances of marital rape immunity in the Penal Code.
To date, 1410 have signed the online petition.
To find out more, please visit http://www.notorape.com.
Join the UNIFEM Singapore Group on Facebook
UNIFEM Singapore is now on Facebook!
Our Facebook group is an active platform for UNIFEM Singapore to share updates, photos and information to all group members. It will also serve as a forum for group members to share ideas and thoughts about women's issues.
The UNIFEM Singapore Facebook group is open to everyone. To join, simply search for 'UNIFEM Singapore' on Facebook. Just a small reminder, please note that you have to sign up for Facebook before you can join the group.