Tuesday 21 April 2009

Aware vs mountaineers: Who better represent Singapore women?

In The New Paper on Saturday, there was a story about two extraordinary groups of Singapore women.

One group was a little younger and the other more experienced. Both groups more or less wanted to accomplish the same thing - and no, I'm not talking about running the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

They wanted to scale Mt Everest.

An all-women team made up of students and teachers from Christ Church Secondary School met the Singapore Women’s Everest Team at the Everest Base Camp in Nepal on 7 Apr.

The Christ Churchers reportedly battled below-freezing temperatures, a snowstorm and a hailstorm to achieve their lofty goal. The youngest among them are only 15 years old.

Also in The New Paper that day - as well as the days before and after - was a story of another two groups of women, the new Executive Committee members of Aware and the "old guard", battling each other over control of the association.

I ask you: Who do you think represent Singapore women in a more positive light: the climbers or the members of Aware?

Ironically, Aware's stated mission is to "encourage positive change" and "support women in realising their highest potential". I only know this because I just went to its website (before the server crashed).

Earlier, my wife had wanted to know exactly what it was that Aware did. My somewhat glib answer was it released press statements.

Then realising I was being somewhat glib, I added that Aware also runs a helpline for women. That was all I could think of.

Later, I asked a female colleague what Aware did. She said they wrote letters to the press. She didn't even mention the helpline.

People may not know much about Aware, but thanks to the coup d'├ętat, at least people are now asking about it. After all, it makes for far more entertaining soap opera than anything on local TV like Red Thread because it's real life and no one is pretending to be blind.

It also helps that the characters are all women. If this was happening in, say, the Association of Men for Action and Research (Amare), I don't think people would care as much.

As my colleague Tan Mae Lynn put it in her commentary on Sunday, it's a "cat fight". If only I could sell tickets!

One unfortunate consequence, however, is that more attention is paid to this highly diverting feline in-fighting than the inspiring high-altitude feats of our female mountaineers.

After this contretemps, for Aware to regain its standing as a credible voice on local women's issues is going to be a uphill task, but no tougher than conquering the world's tallest peak.

I await the next press release with bated breath.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 April 2009