Singapore Represent!  Had the great opportunity to represent Singapore at the ASEAN Young Women Leaders Conference at KL over the last ...

The World is your Oyster - ASEAN Pink Dialogue 2016

Singapore Represent! 

Had the great opportunity to represent Singapore at the ASEAN Young Women Leaders Conference at KL over the last three days. All thanks to Singapore Women's Association for sending me over with Ischelle and Kyla :)

When asked if I could head over to be part of the dialogue, I jumped on it without really doing much research (as the great journalist that i am). Have always had a vested interest in the ASEAN region (i mean c'mon i chose to travel sea for 2 whole months!! haha) and so accepting the invitation only came natural to me.

We first landed in KL on Sunday and checked in to Grand Seasons Hotel.

Malaysia Boleh... hahah i couldn't stop raving about Msia
but seriously i mean other than the twin towers... the rainbowwww :')

Sunday was for settling in and then Monday was the day of the conference. 

By this time, I still wasn't sure who or which organisation was in-charge of it and what would happen after the conference.... Nobody said anything and I was told nothing. All I knew was that it was a conference that'd contribute to discussions on improving the lives of young ASEAN women and yada yada. 


This happened.

The speaker for the Opening Address and GOH was... Ms Sharizat Abdul Jalil, Chairlady of UMNO's Women Wing and former Minister of Women, Family and Community Development. (Quite a mouthful and wow, msia's ahead of us in championing women's rights eh?)

So yes, it was organised by UMNO. The G of Malaysia. Gees. This is big, I thought to myself. And look at the media frenzy. It was quite crazy with everyone vying to take a selfie, yes specifically a selfie, with her. The selfie game is strong in Malaysia. I.... I just.... cannot.

Well, that's not to say that we had our own photo as well haha.

I mean in Singapore, if Ministers attend an event, it's pretty huge. Every day in the newsroom I'm writing or reading about this Minister doing this or that at whatever event. And it's considerably big and newsworthy... also for obvious reasons...

And this wasn't the only Minister who attended the conference...... continue reading to the end of this.

A lot of people we met, or rather, almost all of the Malaysians who attended the conference were linked to one political party or another. And of course for BN.

So what did we do at the Pink Dialogue?? (i know... pink......?)

We were told that we'd be split into groups to talk about the different spheres in the ASEAN society namely, Politics & Leadership, Social and the Economy, and to come to a resolution after thinking up initiatives to combat challenges faced by ASEAN women.

And then we were told that whatever resolution that's drafted will be sent to their PM, Najib Razak. Impressive. Slightly skeptical, but always keeping an open mind.

So the three of us were split and I got "Economy". I am not at all wise about econs but well, I still tried to give my two cents' worth any ways.

The session lasted for a whole 4 hours, just debating and presenting our ideas. By the end of it, I couldn't help but wish it were more robust. Granted, this was I believe, their very first conference. I think the framework and analytical tools guiding the discussions could have been better. Also, perhaps there weren't enough thought leaders in our midst - most of them were University students from the different SEA countries who hadn't got a grasp of the issues in our society. Perhaps, more work could've been done before to ensure preparation. Research at least. More planning before the conference could've been executed. Even our itinerary came in late.

Or it could also be the nature of conferences. Sometimes, I think conferences are mainly for people to meet... less of a platform for concrete action or change and more of a get-to-know/friendly session. I guess that's why in JC, we'd always talk about the effectiveness of ASEAN. Or even the UN, where things don't actually get done. It's a lot of talk and no action. Or there's no specific outcome of these talks.

Even at Oxford, where I attended the Southeast Asia Conference... I thought discussions could be facilitated better. And I also sensed an elitist bubble that bred amongst academics. I mean, yes, issues that were discussed at conferences were delved into and surely, there were a lot of sharing of ideas and information among academics. But. But... what happens after that? It just felt like the very people who are supposed to benefit from the research aren't getting anything out of these conferences. That's why I kinda understand why people sense pomposity from academics in general because to truly understand people, you must interact with people, and ideas must be translated into action. But that's stuck somewhere along the pipeline. Isn't it ironic? It's like a cloud of ignorance over a group of people who are supposed to be spreading awareness to the general masses.

Or perhaps that's basically the job of an academic? To do research and nothing more? Then there must be someone or something that provides that arm to move things along.

Nevertheless, I still think conferences are important to have. An avenue for different people with different ideas to come together and communicate. And perhaps, that's the basis of it all because differences themselves are already so difficult to deal with - in geography, culture, personalities... What more, issues? I suppose different regions have their way of doing things. I'm sure there are problems with the EU as well. ASEAN feels more of a relationship-centric body for foreign delegates to build trust first. A confidence-building platform.

Speaking of cultural, after the round of discussions, it was Cultural Night that evening.

All dressed up
Was wearing a sarong kebaya my colleague gave to me.

On our way to the tourism cultural centre


We were treated to a sumptuous feast and a show of cultural dances.
It was funnnnn. And of course once again, we were wondering if that actually was the focus of the whole conference haha.

But of course, we got to know so many others from around the region.

Annisa from Indonesia!
She's so funny, reminds me of Atheena haha.

Here with Shakira as well who's actually Singaporean but studying in Malaysia majoring in Arabic Studies.
I thought that was cool.

Then there were Thai, Cambodian, Myanmar and Bruneian delegates as well.
There was also another group of Singaporean delegates that represented National Youth Achievement Awards.

Met a Malaysian friend after the event. I only just knew him a week ago when I went on a climbing expedition to Mount Kinabalu (!!!! which i've yet blogged about, but i will, most definitely)

The next day was the closing ceremony of the event.

Blue skies greeted us, and my ever so lovely twin towers staring right back at me.

Singapore's just raining every day eh? So chilly...

Soon after breakfast, we had to head to the ballroom for their closing ceremony.

And the speech was made by -

Minister of Defence, Hishammuddin Hussein
He was the ultimate superstar at the event - touted to be the next PM of Malaysia. And if you remember, he fronted the cameras when MH370 went down. Press con after press con when he was the Minister of Transport. Not easy.

But again, ironic because so many of the women in the room were gushing over him. Strange to see all the ovaries exploding when it's a dialogue championing women's rights haha.

Ladies of ASEAN
(who are hopefully gonna make this world a better place to live in)

After the ceremony, we had a flight to catch back home.

Said our goodbyes to our lovely Malaysian counterpart, Syazrin, who treated us so well

On our flight home... I couldn't stop staring out the window.
I felt a certain peace.. and calm.
And I felt really emotional for some reason I don't know why. Maybe that's why I love hiking up mountains cos I feel like I'm on top of the world, yet there's a sense of quiet stillness within. A very powerful feeling actually and I came back home feeling energised, inspired and ready to rumble.

Next up, gonna come back to blog about my Kinabalu experience. It was tiring as hell and we didn't have the best weather conditions but still, extremely memorable :-)

Till then, it's me the ASEAN lady over and out. Ready to do some real work in the real world.

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