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4th World Conference of Women’s Shelters
November 5, 2019 @ 8:00 am - November 8, 2019 @ 5:00 pm
The 4th World Conference of Women’s Shelters
‘Impact and Solidarity’
Conference at Kaoshiung-Taiwan, 5 to 8 November 2019
This Conference was held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan from 5 to 8 November 2019. About 1400 government officials and NGO representatives hailed from more than 100 countries attended the energy charging conference aspiring to live out the theme of Impact and Solidarity.
The Opening Ceremony started with an impactful dance about pain, suffering, hope and empowerment. This was followed by the opening remarks given by the President of Taiwan, Ms Tsai Ing Wen who called us all to create safe spaces for women and children around the world. She pointed out that Taiwan ranks highest in gender equality in Asia in accordance to standards stipulated by the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender inequality index.
The emerging issues identified were protection of women with disabilities, members of LGBTQI community, migrant women as well as the weaponization of sexual violence by the Hong Kong police cracking down on protesters.
Most of the keynote speakers spoke about putting aside our own interest, standing shoulder to shoulder together to spread our sphere of influence in our world. The keynote address by Indian activist Kamla Bhasin called for shelters to be space for hope, safety and diversity; shelters that create relationship based on inclusion and equality, promote pluralism, and to create alliance with other groups – minorities and environment protectors.
We heard stories about other shelters like the City of Joy shelter in the Democratic Republic of Congo who strived to create a transformational leadership community of women who have survived violence, especially sexual violence.
We were proud to have our two Singapore Shelters sharing their experiences during the workshops. Lorraine from Star Shelter led the audience on an experiential tour of the Star Shelter, while Theresa and her team from Anglican Family Centre shared their study on the resilience of the Shelter migrant wives in Singapore.
Open Shelter Approach
One thing that was really new for us was presented by the Dutch Orange House that took the open shelter approach. That means, they have to be very thorough in assessing the case. And when the time was right and situation was safe, they allowed the perpetrator to know where their wife and children were staying. The social workers then worked with the men together with their families. Their research showed that the violence reduced by half and the proportion of children and mothers suffering from trauma has dropped significantly.
Global Helplines Project
Another initiative of this Global Conference was the setting up of the Global Helplines Project. This is with the aim of garnering support for a database of accurate helplines and creating a website that could contribute to women’s safety around the globe. What they did at the Conference was to call for all to register the listing of their helpline from our respective countries. We realized that we in Singapore do not have a national helpline for women who are facing violence yet.
Networking among Singapore Shelters
Of course, since all 4 shelters from Singapore were represented, we managed to have our own informal chats and networking during the breaks. The Ministry of Social and Family Development sent 3 representatives from the Office of Women’s development. They graciously hosted dinner for us one evening and we had a good time getting to know each other in an informal setting on top of a sumptuous BBQ dinner.
During the time at the Conference, we managed to locate the Good Shepherd participants from Taiwan and Korea. Although we found them only on the last day yet it was good to know we were not alone in this Conference as these are issues that are close to our hearts.
The Beginning of the End
All in all, we would say the Conference was a good experience, some new ways to think about and ponder its’ application in our context. It was also good to hear and know what other people in the world, outside of Good Shepherds, are doing to protect the safety of women and girls. It was also reassuring to hear some similar ways of running the shelter, similar difficulties and knowing that we are all in this together. And to quote President Tsai who ended her speech saying she believes that global conference such as this will help free more women and children from the threat of violence, and help them to finally enjoy life with dignity and equality. We are glad to know we are part of this global network of Women’s Shelters.
Article by participants: Ms Jessica Koh and Sister Agnes Koh