[For the oral statement, we had representatives from Tsao Foundation/WINGS, Project X, Sayoni, and AWARE speaking for the women’s NGO coalition/HOME/TWC2/CDE.]
An important part of the CEDAW process is the constructive dialogue, in which the CEDAW Committee asks questions directed at government representatives, after having received the government’s report and additional information from NGOs and other sources.
When the committee member who was examining Singapore’s compliance to the health-related CEDAW article mentioned the term “LBT” (lesbian, bisexual and transgender), I turned to Jeanette beside me, wild with disbelief.
The committee member proceeded to quote almost all the issues we had listed in the health section of Sayoni’s shadow report. Tears sprang to my eyes even as my fingers flew over the keyboard furiously to try to capture everything she had said. I’ve never typed so quickly in my life.
After transcribing the question, exhaustion settled into every bone in my body. It took me the whole day to understand why.
I think of the people back home, the nights spent communicating about our projects, the weekends at home working on one report or the other, not knowing when I could have a social life or engage in self-improvement projects, the days the team was stressed out of our minds and squeezing out every spare hour of our days to process information.
I think of the people whom we interviewed for our documentation study, the transcribers, and the devoted interviewers who sat with people and listened with their heart and soul to the things that were said. So there was never any question that I would use three-quarters of my yearly leave to make this journey to Geneva and help in what capacity I could as a Sayoni volunteer.
And yet I am fully aware that this is a marathon and not a sprint. The short-term goal is for queer women’s issues to be included in the Concluding Observations the committee produces, but the long game is equality – in sexual orientation and gender identity for people of all ages and ethnicities.