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Gender equality not just a women’s issue, men need to educate themselves on it: Panellists at TODAY’s webinar series

SINGAPORE — Gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Men need to educate themselves on how they can practise gender equality in their workplace and communities, said a gender equality advocate at a lunchtime webinar on Thursday (Nov 26).

From left: Moderator Elizabeth Neo, TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang, Daughters of Tomorrow's executive director Fannie Lim and Aware volunteer Kristian-Marc James Paul at the third instalment of the TODAY Instagram Live series "Empowering women in a patriarchal society".

From left: Moderator Elizabeth Neo, TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang, Daughters of Tomorrow's executive director Fannie Lim and Aware volunteer Kristian-Marc James Paul at the third instalment of the TODAY Instagram Live series "Empowering women in a patriarchal society".

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  • The lunchtime webinar is part of TODAY’s Instagram Live series
  • Panellists said men can start overcoming gender inequality at home
  • Employers should not penalise women for childbirth, they said

 

SINGAPORE — Gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Men need to educate themselves on how they can practise gender equality in their workplace and communities, said a gender equality advocate at a lunchtime webinar on Thursday (Nov 26).

Instead of burdening women with explaining gender inequality, Mr Kristian-Marc James Paul suggested, during the third of TODAY’s Instagram Live lunchtime webinar series titled “Empowering women in a patriarchal society”, that men help work on solutions on their own.

“It’s important for men to have these conversations with other men,” the volunteer at gender advocacy group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said.

Mr Paul, 26, was joined by Ms Fannie Lim, executive director of Daughters of Tomorrow charity, and TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang for the webinar.

If men want to get started in redressing the gender inequality in society, it begins with small acts of dismantling the traditional gender roles at home, said Ms Nabilah.

They could help with chores stereotypically reserved for women, such as washing the dishes, cooking or doing the laundry, she said.

And doing so, added Ms Lim, normalises the belief that men, too, can take charge of homemaking.

As a mother of three herself, she said having her husband do some of the household work and caregiving serves as good role modelling for her children. “It becomes the norm, they don’t see it as dad should be outside and mum should be staying home.”

Panellists noted that gender equality is not about bringing men down but about uplifting women, which can potentially benefit both genders.

“It’s not a zero sum game,” Ms Nabilah, 26, said. “When you invest in women, you double the investment in families and communities.”

Employers, too, have a role to play in advancing gender equality, panellists said.

Ms Lim, 39, whose charity helps underprivileged women in Singapore find work, urged employers to recognise women’s role as mothers and not to penalise them for childbirth and caring for their children.

She said she suffered a delay in her career progression when she returned to the workforce after six years as a stay-home mother.

The life lessons and skills learnt through caring for children, such as multi-tasking and strategising, can be valuable to the workforce and should be discounted.

Ms Nabilah recounted how, while being interviewed for a job, she was asked whether she was going to start a family or get pregnant anytime soon.

While it may be a legitimate question for employers to ask in order for them to plan ahead, these questions should be reserved for after the interview process, Ms Lim added.

“If it takes place during the interview, it makes the interviewee feel like, ‘Is this going to affect my chances?’”

The panellists also touched on the issue of sexual violence in Singapore, in the form of voyeurism and sex crimes.

Mr Paul called on men to recognise that what may seem like harmless comments about a woman’s looks could feed into a dangerous culture of objectifying women.

One question asked by a viewer during the hour-long session was whether women should get more involved in National Service (NS).

“We should compensate the boys who have gone through NS,” said Ms Lim. “But I also think that people may not see the value of a woman going through motherhood, childbirth. It actually helps a person gain different perspectives and helps us to mature.”

The final part of the series will go live on Dec 3 at 12pm, where TODAY journalist Justin Ong, non-profit founder Cho Ming Xiu and civic programme director Khee Shi Hui will discuss breaking the stigma of mental health.

Please follow us @todayonline on Instagram for our next session.

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