Monday, March 08, 2010

Happy International Women's Day!!!

It's 8 March today, and the world celebrates International Women's Day -- a day set aside by the United Nations in 1913 to acknowledge "ordinary women in their centuries-old struggle to participate in society on an equal footing with men".

But more so, I wanted to find out about the women's movement in Singapore, and the significance of IWD to us. Who better to tell us more than the Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE), who have been in the forefront of advocacy work for women since 1985. In fact, this year they celebrate their 25th anniversary!

Corinna Lim, the newly-appointed Executive Director, and Dana Lam, President of AWARE tells us about the women's movement in Singapore.

Well, AWARE announced last week that they've appointed Corinna Lim as its new Executive Director. I was keen to meet her and hear from her, and I felt thankful that she and President Dana Lam were willing to make time to come & share with us, considering how busy they must be around this period.

And they were a blast! I didn't think it would be so easy to chat with them. We chatted about AWARE's new structure, as well as their plans for 2010. Also, I learnt more about our fight for women's rights in Singapore, which started in 1952, with the pioneering Singapore Council of Women, which activist Shirin Fozdar was a part of. Awesome stuff!

But taking a more global perspective, my conversation after this took us to Nepal, where Australian couple Adam & Rebecca Ordish started a foundation to empower girls & women there through scholarships, educational programmes & training opportunities.

Bec & Adam Ordish founded the Mitrataa Foundation to empower girls & women in Nepal.

They started the foundation about 10 years ago, after they spent 5 months living in Nepal as volunteer English teachers. Today, their Dream Catchers Scholarships sponsor hundreds of girls through school; their Dream Centres are havens for them to explore their passions & talents, like drama, dance & art; and the Daisy Chains initiative empowers women to start micro businesses.

The profits they make are not returned to Bec & Adam, but to the next batch of women, whom they also mentor. I was fascinated by this "pay it forward" concept. It leads to women empowering women to be financially independent, a community of business owners flourishes. The point, Bec & Adam tell me, is to work themselves out of a job in Nepal. Now shouldn't that be the aim of all NGOs?

It's awesome work they are doing there in Nepal. If you'd like to find out more or to support them, click here.

Oh yes, and I asked them what "Mitrataa" [pron. MEE-tre-tah] means. "Friendship," Adam explains. "When we were choosing a name, we thought that would be the most simple and accurate word, to establish lasting friendships with the wonderful people in Nepal."

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