As Singaporeans overseas we are very concerned about the take-over of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) on 28 March 2009 by a group of people, whose values are opposed to what AWARE stands for. For nearly 25 years, AWARE has worked to advance gender equality for all women in Singapore, regardless of race, religion, or sexuality. Through its many contributions, AWARE has significantly enhanced women�s capacity to make informed choices over their bodies and their lives.
We support the Save AWARE Campaign (http://www.we-are-aware.sg) on the following grounds:
1. Media reports indicate that the newcomers, now on AWARE�s new Executive Committee, are, at best, ignorant of AWARE�s mission and, at worst, ideologically opposed to this.
2. There are clear indications from media reports that the take-over was by a group with affiliations to known fundamentalist organisations � notably, Church of Our Saviour and Focus on the Family (as well as possibly Liberty League and Exodus International). As reported in the Straits Times (18 April 2009), six of the eleven current Ex-Co members attend the Church of Our Saviour, which has publicly stated its position on women�s role and status. In the document �God�s Order for the Family�, posted as a resource on the Church�s website , it is openly stated that �the wife is in subjection to her husband� and �women [are] to continually deny themselves and yield the rule to men�. This document states: �feminist movements�are not according to God’s order�. Rather, �His will for a young women is to do four things: (1) marry, (2) bear children, (3) guide the house, (4) not be a reproach to her husband.� It is highly unlikely, to say the least, that members of a church promoting such values would champion gender equality for all women in all spheres of life. Rather, it is more likely that this fundamentalist group would engage in an exercise of defining who qualifies as a �woman� and who does not. If so, this would be diametrically opposed to AWARE�s inclusion of all women as having the right to gender equality, be they gay or straight, married or unmarried, mothers or not, employed or not, Christian or not.
3. Various blog writers have pointed out that this hostile take-over is a warning sign of fundamentalist ambitions that may extend far beyond AWARE. The question has been raised several times why fundamentalists have been motivated to take over a secular organisation like AWARE. Is it to �confuse others into believing that these agendas are supported by an organisation which is concerned with women�s best interests from a feminist and humanist point of view, rather than a Christian fundamentalist point of view�? (http://www.glass-castle.org) Is this the thin end of a wedge that may subsequently affect other secular civic organizations and perhaps even beyond?
4. The new Ex-Co has not communicated with the rank and file membership of AWARE, despite the public controversy that has broken out, leaving members to learn about AWARE from media reports. It has sacked all the current heads of the AWARE sub-committees, including the summary dismissal of Braema Mathi, Chairperson of AWARE�s CEDAW Committee. (CEDAW is the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.) It has refused to disclose specific plans, despite repeated questioning by journalists. The recently elected President, Claire Nazar, resigned after 11 days, because of what she described as the new Ex-Co�s �Stormtrooper tactics� (The Straits Times, 19 April 2009). All these acts and omissions are symptomatic of the duplicity and disingenuousness that underlie this take-over by stealth.
5. This was confirmed in the recent letter to AWARE members written by the Immediate Past President, Constance Singam, who noted that �although the team [the new Ex-Co] had publicly said that they would honour Aware�s founders and build on the good work of past members, their private behaviour suggested otherwise.� �In private meetings, the exco showed a complete lack of respect for me, ignoring my advice and keeping me out of an exco meeting when I had the right to be there, as stated in the Constitution,� she wrote (The Straits Times 19 April 2009).
We, the undersigned, support the Save AWARE Campaign as a collective endeavour to reclaim AWARE as a vehicle to advance women�s rights to gender equality and individual choices.
We call on the fundamentalist group who have taken over to respect AWARE�s vision of �gender equality for all� and its mission �to identify areas for improvement in gender equality, encourage positive change; and support women in realizing their highest potential.� As reported by The Straits Times (10 April 2009), when this new group was asked at the recent Annual General Meeting if they believe in equality, �they kept repeating they were there to support women and to make sure they got ahead and got all the opportunities given to them.� We call on this group to quit AWARE as soon as possible, if they cannot uphold its foundational vision and mission.
We call on all Singaporeans and permanent residents concerned with the continuing existence of a secular civil society in Singapore to support the Save AWARE Campaign.
(Note: Signatories should be Singaporean citizens and permanent residents, of any gender. Please provide your name as stated in your NRIC with your NRIC number and your current country of residence.)