When I was considering if I would agree to start the Habitat for Humanity Singapore office as a volunteer back in 2004, one of the things that I was fascinated with was the way Habitat activities could be used in concert with many other worthy causes. For example, Habitat conducts inter-faith builds, bringing together volunteers from different religions to demonstrate that we can find commonality in wanting to help the poor, despite having religious differences.
Another activity that impressed me greatly was the Woman Build. Since 1991, Habitat has been conducting house-build and renovation programmes with teams of volunteers made up entirely of women. If possible, these women will be building for a woman-beneficiary as well. Woman Build even has her own logo! The logo shows a flower, casting a shadow in the shape of a hammer. Some one should give the designer a prize for this most meaningful expression.
I learned later that women-empowerment is a key emphasis in the ministry of Habitat for Humanity globally. In some places where we work, we may deliberately ensure that the title deed of the house be given to the wife, rather than to the husband, so as to empower the women of the village we are working in. We already have strict rules internally to ensure that we do not have any discriminatory practice s based on gender (and for that matter, race, language, religion and a whole list of other considerations); but we would also make a special effort to bring about social justice in whatever areas we can.
In Singapore, we had our first Woman Build exactly 10 years ago, led by our wonderful ambassador Eunice Olsen. She led a team of women to build for a widow living in Batam. I remember the only men present were the Habitat construction supervisors. I thought it was most wonderful.
I am sure we all can agree that gender inequality still exist, especially in patriarchal Asia. We do believe that with each Woman Build team we send, we are bringing attention to this issue, and taking another positive step towards a world where women are treated fairly and kindly. So if you are a woman, join us! If you are a man, encourage a woman to join us!