A more equal, fair and just world

A painting of a woman kneeling on a carpet reading
'Young Woman Reading' by Osman Hamdi Bey (1880)

Dear Reader,

My name is Filzah and I’m one of the co-editors of Growing Up Perempuan. As someone who grew up in the Singapore Muslim community, editing the book was an emotional roller coaster. Some stories gave me hope for a better future. While other stories confirmed my fears of how minority women are up against a system intent on breaking them.

It was published in 2018 but the realities of women remain the same. Women still face sexual harassment, an unequal share of caregiving responsibilities, domestic violence, victim-blaming, a gender pay gap and so on. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the inadequacies of our systems and further highlighted the already stark inequalities faced by women. AWARE has been outspoken about how the pandemic affects vulnerable communities of women: such as single mothers, domestic workers, migrant wives, victims of family violence and workplace harassment.

At the start of “circuit breaker”, I reached out to some of the women whose stories were featured in the book, such as:

  • A mother’s love: In conversation with Shiqah, p17
  • Engkau lain, engkau kuat: In conversation with Nani, p48
  • Kak Enok: In conversation with Sulastri Abdullah, p101
  • Poligami - Ikut sunnah atau nafsu?: In conversation with Chahaya, p209

Unfortunately for some of them, there are no happy endings. In fact, life became much tougher when the pandemic began. Some were retrenched due to the lockdown, unable to find work; others suffered health problems, cooped up in overcrowded flats, and faced financial difficulties. The women with children were burdened even more as they found it hard to obtain laptops so that their children could participate in home-based learning, exposing the inequalities in our education system.

Mutual aid networks such as Wares mutual aid—self-organised and non-judgmental alternatives to mainstream social help—have been a lifesaver for many women, who can obtain timely help without the need to fill up forms and prove that they are “needy enough”. Nevertheless, community resources are limited. People experience donation and volunteer fatigue. Those who are struggling themselves try to help others, but are stretched to their financial and emotional limits.

We need vast, systemic change and it needs to happen now. AWARE has outlined six principles and policy ideas in its Gender Equality Manifesto for a more equal, fair and just world. These principles are a good place for our country to start.

"It doesn't take a hundred years to do this. It takes political courage."—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district

In solidarity,
Co-editor of Growing Up Perempuan

(From July 4, 2020)