Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hijacking International Women's Day

This was the letter I sent to Straits Times Forum last Monday:
I see it is becoming “cool” to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. In Singapore I see advertisements admonishing readers to “come pamper yourself”.

In the Forum pages I see men and women still seem unhappy or unsure about giving their live-in maids a weekly day off.

My question then is, “What have we done on IWD to empower the maids in our households, the local and foreign women in Singapore suffering violence and indignity, and women and children around the world suffering violence, hunger and poverty?”

What was the last thing we did to help improve the life of one woman – sister, neighbour, friend – near us?

Celebrate IWD by all means but please do not hijack it for commercial gains.
I noticed from Facebook posts that businesses have jumped on the IWD bandwagon.

To put it mildly, I was incensed.

After sending this letter I checked some of her posts again and realized that an IWD event was actually run by Medicorp. Is that why they refused to publish my very concise letter?

The local Women's Society where I was (voluntary) Secretary on the Management Committee for several years run annual IWD events. Yes, we do offer "pampering sessions", but these were offered for the mental and physical well-being of women who are often in such dire circumstances.

We screen films and host photographic exhibitions that celebrate the lives of women, and champion especially the cause of women facing domestic violence (from both male and female partners, yes). We organize events to encourage women entrepreneurs and highlight the achievements of young women within our local community.

But we have never tried to make money by saying, "Come pamper yourself." Full stop.

Come have an expensive dinner, it's International Women's Day.

Come buy a pair of expensive shoes, it's International Women's Day.

Come spend the day in our wonderful lovely spa, it's International Women's Day.

Because you are worth it, and all that.

If Singaporeans - men and women - really care for women, then start caring for the women you know right next to you. Do something not only on IWD but every day to empower the woman - young, old, able, disabled, married, single - in your midst.

Is how I feel. Please share my rant.

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