For overseas readers of my blog, AWARE is a Singapore social service organization offering counselling, legal services, and programs to raise womens' awareness about their status and rights. Basically AWARE is Singapore’s best known women’s group and feminist movement.
Problems started when AWARE held its AGM (Annual General Meeting) on March 28. Usually no more than 40 members would turn up at its center to rubber-stamp a prepared slate of candidates into office. This year however over 100 women came, with the vast majority only having joined Aware only in recent months.
By the end of the election, nine out of 12 executive committee spots went to the newcomers with every position challenged by a new face winning by a wide margin. Mrs Claire Nazar, one of the few remaining old guard, was named president during the AGM. However barely a week into her new term, she quit suddenly over differences with the new members.
From then, all hell break loose with the Old Guard claiming that this was a leadership grab by some unknown group of women. Rumors swirl around the new members who took over AWARE because, well, no one knows who they are! Weeks pass before the New Guard of AWARE finally gave a news conference on why they stage the takeover.
The new group, led by lawyer Thio Su Mien, stated that they were alarmed that Aware had lost sight of its original purpose and become a pro-lesbian and pro-homosexual organization. The story has been played out over Singapore for weeks and no one expected a resolution any time soon.
I have not commented on the AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) saga so far because frankly I have no interest in it. I am barely aware that AWARE existed and what they stand for (which is more than you can say for some Singaporeans, including women). Frankly I couldn’t care less who is in charge of AWARE.
However I have a piece of advice for the New Guard; whoever is in charge of media relations in your group, you must sack her.
The New Guard is getting slaughtered in the press and rightfully so. First off, if you are going to hold a press conference, for god sake do NOT summarily fired staff on the same night. Worse you girls don’t even have a reasonable explaination when the fired staff demanded to know why she was fired. Also do NOT change the locks of your office on the same night as the press conference.
Another thing is why it took so long for you to hold a press conference. When a group of unkown people take over a group like AWARE, surely you should know that a lot of questions will be asked. Thio Su Mien also stated that she was the one who organized the takeover as she was unhappy with the direction of the group. If she was unhappy, why didn’t she start a new group, but had to get outsiders to help her take over the group. These are questions she must answer or the media will continue to kill you. The religious aspect of the story must also be answered as at least 3 of the New Guard attend the same church. No one is going to believe that is a coincidence.
Outside all the public mud-slinging, now death threats have been made against members of the New Guard and the police even had to be called in on a few occasions.
Like I said earlier, I don’t care who is in charge of AWARE but the New Guard need a better PR manager and need to answer some questions fast. Both groups need to settle their differences ASAP because right now, the one getting hurt the worst is the AWARE name.
And I think none of the women want that.