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Since its formation in 1985, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has become a household name and an exemplary force in Singapore’s activism landscape. Known for its strong research-driven advocacy of women’s rights in Singapore, AWARE has made significant contributions to shaping public opinion and lobbying for government policy changes in the pursuit of equality.

As AWARE celebrates its 35 years of activism, we take a look at some of its greatest milestones and achievements.

01. Ending Violence

Ending violence against women has been a priority of AWARE’s since its conception. In the past 35 years, it has run countless campaigns to educate people and raise awareness on the issue. It has also lobbied the government and state agencies, changing policies and legislation on family violence, sexual assault, and harassment. AWARE has also been an unwavering pillar of support to many women through initiatives such as the Women’s Helpline, Women’s Care Centre, Sexual Assault Care Centre, and many others.

Services to support those in distress

Calls to the Women’s Helpline

The Women’s Helpline, founded in 1991, receives thousands of calls each year from women in distress.

graph for women's helplinegraph for women's helpline

9,000+

counselling sessions since 2007

The AWARE counselling service was started in 1991, alongside the Women’s Centre and Helpline, for those who need in-person assistance.

400+

Befriender visits in 2007

AWARE started a Befrienders programme in 2004 to support women in violent and abusive relationships. The programme ended in 2018, as the service is now provided by other organisations.

Women helped by the Sexual Assault Care Centre since 2013

sexual assault care center assistancesexual assault care center assistance

The AWARE Sexual Assault Care Centre opened in 2014, but it was first started in 2011 as the Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (SABS). It provides free or low cost support services to those who have experienced sexual assault.

Advocacy to change legislation

Family Violence Bill

by Kanwaljit Soin in 1995

Kanwaljit Soin proposed the Family Violence Bill to Parliament when she was a Nominated Member of Parliament. Several AWARE members assisted in the drafting of the bill. Though the bill was defeated, its major elements were incorporated into the Women’s Charter in 1996.

AWARE’s consistent research of and lobbying against sexual harassment contributed to the Protection from Harassment Act in 2014.

timeline research on sexual harassmenttimeline research on sexual harassment

Research and campaigns on violence and harassment

Since its founding, AWARE has supported

5

books

16

surveys and reports

16+

campaigns

to raise awareness and change public perceptions of sexual harassment, violence, and abuse. But the work to end violence against women continues.

aim for zero

In 2018, AWARE launched a new two-year campaign, Aim for Zero, to press for collective action and build a culture of support for survivors of all forms of sexual violence, as well as ensure that communities have zero tolerance towards sexual violence.

02. Fighting for Equality

AWARE has fought tirelessly to improve the status and rights of women in Singapore since its inception. Empowered by research and activism, AWARE identifies—and helps remove—gender-based barriers that hold women back from attaining equality in workplaces and homes.

In schools and workplaces

AWARE has played a key role in Singapore’s development of family-oriented workplace policies, which recognise the value of both men and women as employees as well as their shared responsibilities as parents.

Shattering the glass ceiling in education

Through the advocacy of AWARE and others, the quota restricting the National University of Singapore’s medical faculty’s female student intake to one-third of the cohort was lifted in 2003.

Since then, female student intake has increased steadily, with enrolment surpassing that of males since academic year 2013/2014.

Undergraduate enrolment to medical degree at National University of Singapore, by gender

Female students Male students

medical degree graphmedical degree graph

Source: NUS Registrar’s Office

Providing paid parental leave for all

Since 2011, AWARE has been pushing for policy changes targeted at improving parental leave. A bumper year for organisations such as AWARE, 2017 saw the introduction of two weeks of mandatory paid paternity leave.

That year, unwed mothers became entitled to the same 16 weeks of paid maternity leave—a 50 percent increase—enjoyed by their married counterparts. Children born after 1 September 2016 also became eligible for Child Development Accounts, which offset childcare and healthcare costs.

Maximum amount of paid parental leave in Singapore (weeks)

Maternity leave Paternity leave

parental leave graphparental leave graph

Creating safe spaces for individuals facing workplace harassment and discrimination

150 cases

of workplace harassment were received by WHDA from September 2019 to August 2020

AWARE launched the Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Advisory (WHDA) in 2019. The free service includes informing individuals facing workplace discrimination and/or harassment of their available options, and guiding them through the necessary procedures to achieve them.

Equalising medical benefits for families of male and female civil servants

AWARE was instrumental in calling out paternalistic notions that shaped policies, by raising how they were inconsistent with the Women’s Charter. In 2003, it proposed an amendment to the civil servant benefit, which gave dependants of male employees a larger medical subsidy under the assumption that as “heads-of-households”, husbands and fathers have the responsibility to provide for the entire family.

medical benefits timelinemedical benefits timeline

In homes

Ensuring equality in homes means dismantling arbitrary prejudices and policies that often hurt those most in need—especially those related to housing, marriage, and divorce.

2,687 women

have been helped by AWARE’s free legal clinics (2007–2019)

AWARE has provided free legal clinics since 2001 to advise women on legal matters—including on Syariah law since 2018, which governs marriage, divorce, and inheritance issues for Muslims in Singapore.

2016

marked the first year that husbands* could apply for spousal maintenance

Gender discrimination hurts all people, not just women. AWARE has fought hard against the stigmatisation of divorce as well as for spousal maintenance—financial support for divorcees—to be made available on the basis of fairness instead of gender.

*Currently, only incapacitated husbands are allowed to do so.

#ASingleLove campaign

The #ASingleLove campaign focused on single parents’ access to housing and led to some huge wins for the women’s movement. These include the removal of the debarment period and procurement of explicit clarification by the Housing Development Board about single parents’ eligibility for housing grant schemes.

single love timelinesingle love timeline

Make care count

illustration make care countsingle love timeline

Caregiving responsibilities have risen due to Singapore’s aging population—and women bear the brunt of this largely unrecognised and unpaid burden. Since 2019, the Make Care Count campaign has added to AWARE’s leading research in this field by publishing a groundbreaking report as well as pushing for income support and caregivers’ leave in Budget 2020.

03. Changing Minds

Social change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and AWARE has worked hard to shift perspectives about gender issues in Singapore. Catalyse Consulting, formerly the AWARE Training Institute, empowers women with skills and builds diverse, inclusive workplaces across the country. AWARE’s research, outreach, and lobbying have championed women’s voices in effecting legal and policy change.

Raising awareness through research

Since AWARE was founded, it has published

27

full reports and position papers

full reports and position papers

14

surveys

surveys

800+

articles, short pieces, letters and posts

articles, short pieces, letters and posts

on a wide range of gender issues. Insightful and current, AWARE’s short pieces are often published as commentaries and op eds in national newspapers.

Research and advocacy articles, short pieces, letters, and posts (2009–2020)

graph for research and advocacygraph for research and advocacy

Source: Posts were taken from the AWARE website’s research and campaigns section; these include letters, op-eds, short pieces, articles, videos, and other communications.

Community training and education efforts

AWARE’s workshops and programmes continue to educate people about gender issues and the struggles women face daily, as well as provide financial and capacity-building support to women and organisations working with women.

icon

Youth and teens

  • Financial Intelligence Training for Teens (started 2004)
  • It’s My Life (started 2005) (self-development for teens)
  • Birds & Bees (started 2018) (parent sex education workshop)
icon

Supporting women

  • Women Learning English Programme (WISH) (started 1997)
  • Gender Equality IS Our Culture (started 2013)
  • AWARE Power Fund (started 2018)
  • Sexual Assault First Responder Training (started 2019 for public)
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Financial Empowerment

  • Women in Later Life Caregiver Training (started 1997)
  • Financial Awareness & Confidence Training (FACT) (started 2011)

Ongoing programmes in 2020

Ongoing programmes in 2020

icon

Youth and teens

  • Financial Intelligence Training for Teens (started 2004)
  • It’s My Life (started 2005) (self-development for teens)
  • Birds & Bees (started 2018) (parent sex education workshop)
icon

Supporting women

  • Women Learning English Programme (WISH) (started 1997)
  • Gender Equality IS Our Culture (started 2013)
  • AWARE Power Fund (started 2018)
  • Sexual Assault First Responder Training (started 2019 for public)
icon

Financial Empowerment

  • Women in Later Life Caregiver Training (started 1997)
  • Financial Awareness & Confidence Training (FACT) (started 2011)

30,000
people

have been reached by AWARE Training Institute and Catalyse Consulting programmes (2009–2018)

The AWARE Training Institute (founded in 2004) empowers women through training and educational programmes. In 2015, it became Catalyse Consulting, AWARE’s corporate advisory, consulting, and training arm.

3,213
Change Makers

pledged to end violence against women with the We Can! End All Violence against Women campaign from 2013 to 2018.

One in five Change Makers were men, and two in five were youth.

Speaking up for policy change

Working together with other women’s organisations, AWARE has advocated for and achieved major policy changes in the past 35 years—from paternity leave and access to public housing to workplace harassment and sexual assault adjudication.

Explore the interactive timeline below to find out how AWARE’s advocacy has impacted policies in Singapore.

Data by AWARE
Story by Loh Pei Ying, Isabella Chua, Kenneth Wee and Mick Yang
Design by Amanda Teo
Code by Siti Aishah

This story was done in partnership with AWARE.

AWARE is a leading women’s rights and gender equality group in Singapore. Dedicated to identifying and removing gender-based barriers through research, advocacy, education, training, and support services, AWARE has effectively advocated for legal, policy, and mindset change on gender issues over the past 35 years.

AWARE can be reached at aware@aware.org.sg



Topics:

  • AWARE,
  • feminism,
  • gender equality,
  • women’s activism,
  • women’s rights

Disclaimer: Our stories have been researched and fact-checked to the best of our abilities. Should you spot mistakes, inaccuracies, or have queries about our sources, please drop us an e-mail at hello@kontinentalist.com

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