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Shining a light on the struggles of S'pore women
MENTAL health, sexual assault and interracial relationships are among the sensitive issues highlighted in the play Every Singaporean Daughter, staged by social enterprise Unsaid this weekend.
As its title suggests, the play focuses on the unspoken struggles of Singaporean women, ranging from everyday problems such as body image to major issues like abuse.
Rather than forming a script solely based on their own ideas, the Unsaid team called for submissions online, crafting a play that hopes to represent the vastness of the experiences of Singaporean women.
This unusual crowdsourcing technique was inspired by Unsaid co-founder Chris Hnin's experiences at Tufts University in Boston. The 22-year-old undergraduate took part in a school production called Not Your Mother's Monologues, which also used stories submitted by students.
Her story was selected and she performed on stage with 18 others who offered "rich and honest vignettes from their lives". The fact that real stories were presented made the set-up "raw, vulnerable and, overall, magical", provoking Ms Hnin to repeat the experience back home.
"In Singapore, many describe gender as one that's just based on whether or not you have the respective body parts, and many go on to dismiss it as a non-issue, given the opportunities they've been able to access in their own lives," Ms Hnin explains. "I'd be glad if women here do feel liberated, empowered and advantaged, but it simply isn't the universal truth for all the daughters of Singapore. There are still many gender expectations and rigid boundaries that are set up for us."
Twenty-three-year-old Marie Ee, also an undergraduate at Tufts, had the task of sorting through the stories and creating a script from them. She was most moved by a story of a young woman who had to reconcile society's ideas of what it means to be "lady-like" with her desire to compete in wushu.
Unsaid's Head of Outreach Alisa Maya Ravindran was touched by another story about a girl who had to grapple with her mixed parentage - a local father and Filipino mother. She also had to take on the responsibilities of an adult because her father became drunk, absent and sometimes violent when she was 10. "It is inspiring to me that these women are brave enough to share their personal stories," says Ms Ravindran. "It made me realise that there is a whole other side to people's lives. In a society like Singapore where 'face' is very important, people can go to great lengths to hide their struggles from their friends in school or at work."
Part of the profits from the play's ticket sales will be donated to Babes, a charity that helps pregnant teens and their families. "Teen pregnancy is a topic that remains somewhat taboo in Singapore," Ms Ravindran adds. "It is often hard for Babes to get support from other organisations."
- Every Singaporean Daughter runs from July 15 to 17 at the KC Arts Centre. Tickets from S$15 (for students) to S$25 are available at http://unsaidsg.peatix.com/