AWARE, Singapore’s leading women’s rights and gender equality advocacy group has voted to allow male and non-binary members to vote in General Meetings.
An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) was held at the AWARE Centre to amend the AWARE Constitution on last Saturday (26 November), as part of an overall update of the Constitution. Over 60 members voted in in the meeting and resolutions for some amendments were passed. At the EGM, the written statements of numerous members and some volunteers were circulated to all attendees.
The first amendment passed was the membership categories. The changes clarified that, for the purpose of deciding membership rights, ‘women’ includes transgender women and ‘men’ includes transgender men.
AWARE now also made provision for people who do not identify as men or women (non-binary people) to join as Associate Members – they were previously unable to join because members had to specify if they were ‘male’ or ‘female’.
On voting rights’ changes, Associate Members (men and non-binary people) were given the right to vote in General Meetings at AWARE, subject to a cap so that their votes cannot count for more than 25 percent of the votes on a resolution. Previously, Male Associate Members had no voting rights. 71.8 percent of the voting members present voted in favour of this change.
Male Associate Members currently consist seven percent of AWARE’s total membership. General meetings of AWARE have previously discussed and voted on the issue of voting rights for male members in 2006 and 2008.
The changes were intensely debated and strongly contested throughout the consultation process and on the day’s Forum and EGM themselves.
AWARE explained that the amendments relating to membership were proposed following an extended period of consultation and research by a committee appointed by the Board in 2014, in response to queries from members at Annual General Meetings.
The committee carried out focus group discussions, administered an online survey of members and conducted interviews by phone and email. The findings from this consultation exercise were disseminated to all members and discussed at the April 2016 Annual General Meeting, AWARE wrote.
Objectives, Values and Functions of AWARE were updated and clarified to make them clearer and easier to understand.
- The objective of AWARE is to promote women’s rights and gender equality.
- The values of AWARE are as follows:
- Embrace diversity, and promote understanding and acceptance of diversity.
- Respect the individual and the choices she makes in life, and support her when needed.
- Recognise the human rights of all, regardless of gender, so that everyone can realise their aspirations.
- The functions of AWARE are:
- Raising awareness of all aspects of gender discrimination and women’s rights;
- Conducting or commissioning research on gender equality and women’s rights;
- Providing for the relief of women in need or crisis and those disadvantaged by gender-based barriers, including gender-based violence and sexual violence;
- Advancing education in gender equality and women’s rights;
- Promoting laws, policies, attitudes, customs and practices in favour of gender equality and women’s rights;
- Promoting the rights of women by advocacy and participation in relevant national, regional and international processes;
- Engaging community and policy makers and participating in civil society; and
- Engaging in any other activity which furthers our objective and values as stated above.
AWARE has also made other technical changes to rationalize membership, meeting and other mechanisms.
There were changes that were proposed but did not have the resolutions for them passed:
- Change the name of the organisation from ‘Association of Women for Action and Research’ to ‘AWARE’.
- Associate Members on the Board: Grant Associate Members limited rights to take up non-office-holder roles on the Board. 58percent of the voting members present voted in favor of this change, but AWARE’s Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of the voting members present to effect any changes.
Teh Hooi Ling, AWARE President, said, “AWARE’s work is multifaceted. We work to improve the lives of marginalised groups and the policies that affect them, as well as to improve policies and practices that affect everyone in society, regardless of gender.”
“Our members have approved of our moves in recent years to engage with more men across all levels of our work. The new rules provide for men to stand up and be counted as key co-owners of the movement for gender equality. We also see this as a move toward building the capacity for men to better promote gender equality.”
‘Yet in a society where only five percent of full ministers and nine percent of corporate directors are women, it is vital that AWARE continues to stake out a space for women’s leadership, which centers and amplifies women’s voices. I believe that the outcome of the EGM helps to strike that critical balance – but the effort to be more inclusive to all, especially marginalised groups, must always be ongoing,’ the President said.
AWARE invited interested parties to register to become a member on AWARE’s website. Members receive benefits such as invitations to events, discounted fees for some events, regular updates on its work and a membership card which carries discounts at participating shops and cafes.