Joseph Schooling and other prominent male leaders pin on white ribbons to show commitment to end violence against women

Prominent male leaders in Singapore will don white ribbons this week as part of the White Ribbon campaign, a global movement which unites men and boys to end violence against women and girls.

Organised in view of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, this year’s chapter sees Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling speak out against gender-based violence and highlight the important role that men and boys play in opposing it.

“Now more than ever, men should proudly wear their commitment to end violence against women,” said Joseph Schooling. “Powerful men boasting about sexual assault should not be brushed off as ‘locker room talk’. We need a culture of equality, not disrespect. As an athlete, I want everyone to know that strength does not mean dominance and aggression.”

“Men and boys can do so much through everyday actions to centre respect for all, regardless of gender,” said Kokila Annamalai, organiser and Community Engagement Manager of AWARE. “And for those in positions of influence, setting the tone for a more equal and inclusive society demonstrates that they are strong and effective leaders.”

Promoting positive male role models

The campaign is supported by Canadian High Commission and the Singapore Committee for UN Women, and features an array of events targeted at men and boys. This year’s theme is on the importance of young boys having positive male role models to emulate.

Michael Kaufman, one of the founders of the global White Ribbon campaign, will be visiting Singapore for the White Ribbon events.

On 1 and 2 December, Kaufman will be leading the following events:

● Men Matter: Breakfast for Leaders – A discussion with prominent male leaders from various backgrounds, including Nominated Member of Parliament, Kok Heng Leun, and Executive Director of National Youth Achievement Award Council, James Soh, exploring creative ways to engage with men in Singapore on ending gender-based violence
● Youth Against Sexual Harassment – A workshop with some 30 youth leaders exploring ways that peer education can help prevent sexual violence and create a supportive school environment
● How Good Dads Can Change the World – A public talk on the positive effects that participating in caregiving can have on men, their partners and their communities
● Fatherhood and the Workplace – An event with corporate leaders, hosted by Deutsche Bank, on how companies can promote active fatherhood and encourage men to play bigger roles in caregiving. A keynote speech by Michael Kaufman will be followed by a panel including Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and key people from several corporate companies.

“Male industry leaders, political figures and celebrities are in a unique position to promote gender equality and oppose violence against women,” said Michael Kaufman, a prominent Canadian public speaker, writer and consultant, whose innovative work focuses on engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality and transforming men’s lives. “An increasing number of men are speaking out, with a message that will resonate with boys and men from all walks of life here in Singapore.”

Involving men and boys in the conversation about gender

The campaign will kick off with ‘White Ribbon Letters’, an initiative where men write letters to a younger boy in their lives about the critical issue of violence against women.

“With the barrage of negative messages about women in the media, in peer groups and elsewhere, young boys need access to male role models who exemplify values of equality and respect that they can emulate,” said Kokila Annamalai.

‘White Ribbon Letters’ offers a platform for men to provide guidance and mentorship to boys, and for young people to realise that men should speak up against gender violence, and be critical of the popular portrayal of masculinity as aggressive, dominant and violent.”

400 male leaders in Singapore will be given two white ribbons each – one for themselves, and one to share with a young man or boy in their life. Supportive members of the public can also change their social media profile pictures to white ribbons and post a message with the hashtag #WhiteRibbonSG.

Within this pool of social media advocates are Joseph Schooling and his father Colin Schooling, nightclub Rupee St James, and social enterprise The Hidden Good.