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27 Apr 2022
4 mins
Collective Commitment to Protect and Empower Women on International Women’s Day

Currently making up only about 1.2 percent of the maritime industry’s largely male-dominated workforce, SMOU wants to see more women including female members, break stereotypes and foray into the maritime world.

Sister Mary Liew shared about the challenges faced by female seafarers as well as the hurdles brought about by crew change restrictions faced by both female seafarers and their male counterparts. This unprecedented crew change crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many seafarers being impacted, with some even made to stay on board ship for up to 11 months.

The female seafarers along with their fellow crew onboard, are strongly holding on to their resilience in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, serving on board ships as key essential workers to keep the global supply chain moving.

Sister Yeo Wan Ling and Sister Mary Liew at the NTUC IWD celebration

Commending them for their boldness and fortitude was NTUC President Mary Liew who spoke at the NTUC International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration on 5 March 2022 at NTUC Centre. The programme was livestreamed to NTUC’s symbiotic partner, PAP’s Women’s Wing, from their IWD event held at the Suntec City.

One of the event highlights was acknowledging the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the National Trade Union Congress U Women and Family (WAF) and 22 small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) who pledged to implement a robust policy framework to prevent and manage workplace harassment, including online abuse.   

In her address, Sister Mary reiterated that the labour movement does not tolerate nor normalise behaviour such as bullying, harassment or abuse.

Citing the visit by Sister Yeo Wan Ling, Director of NTUC U SME and U Women and Family, to hear from the ground at SMOU last year, Sister Mary underscored NTUC and SMOU’s commitment to ensure workers are given adequate protection against gender discrimination and harassment at workplaces and paid tribute to all labour workers for their hard work.

Sister Mary advised NTUC members who need advice and assistance on workplace harassment to approach their union or contact the NTUC Workplace Advisory. Non-NTUC members may visit the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) Workplace Harassment Resource and Recourse Centre for help.

Over at Suntec City, the PAP Women’s Wing IWD hybrid event saw activists and friends of Women’s Wing coming together to pledge future action that supports women’s development and marks a collective commitment to fight online harms.

At the event, Mrs Josephine Teo, Chairwoman of the PAP Women’s Wing, said, “We’ve made Singapore safe for everyone. This should be the case whether in the physical or digital domain. However, we know girls and women are sometimes threatened by behaviours, information or activities online. We want to rally the wider community to take action and together, empower women to keep themselves safe when they go online.” 

In a survey jointly conducted by U Women and Family and the People’s Action Party Women’s Wing to study the issue of gender discrimination in workplaces, the findings have underscored the “pressing need for more companies to establish clear and accessible anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies to cultivate safe workplaces where women can thrive”.

In her closing speech at the motion of Singapore Women’s Development on 5 April 2022, Mrs Josephine Teo also shared about the importance of providing equal opportunities for women and men to pursue their aspirations and how women should be regarded as equal partners of men, both at work and at home.

“More than anything else, this White Paper is about honouring Singapore women, recognising their place in society, and committing to achieve further progress for women.”

Ultimately, there is a call for companies to communicate their policies clearly and to establish processes to manage workplace grievances. More also needs to be done to raise awareness of avenues available to report workplace gender discrimination and/or harassment while protecting whistleblowers who report on such incidents.