I headed down to the Grand Park Orchard Hotel last night, for a series of talks and videos on inspiring Singaporean women who are “Leading the Way – against the Odds” hosted by the UN Women Singapore Committee. It was an enjoyable evening and very informative, and it’s spurred me on to get more involved with causes here.
I particularly liked the short film on psychotherapist and Singapore Woman Award 2012 winner Cassandra Chiu and her guide dog Esme. There have been many articles written on them (Esme even has her own facebook page and has become a local celebrity!) and it was so interesting to hear about the need for Singaporeans to become more open and accepting to guide dogs, perhaps even to pets in general!
It’s strange but I don’t think I’ve seen a single Singaporean walking a dog here! It’s always expats and helpers… When I put this to Cassandra, she said it could be down to the fact that dogs seems big and scary to people here, but they’re more amenable to smaller, more manageable animals.
There definitely needs to be a greater understanding that a guide dog isn’t a pet! They aren’t smelly and dirty, they’ve been trained for 2+ years and they are a blind person’s ‘eyes’.
A recent article on Yahoo!News Singapore interviews Cassandra on her recent turning away from a Mcdonald’s branch where she was refused service, and the rude refrain “No pets allowed!” is constantly yelled at her in restaurants and cafes. She’s even been refused entrance to an MRT station even though she is legally allowed to do enter with Esme. What would be discrimination in other parts of the world, is actually quite commonplace here.
Get this – there are only 5 guide dogs in Singapore! I find this really shocking because it points to a real lack of investment by the government and society as a whole, despite the great work being done by charities such as The Guide Dogs Association of the Blind. All 5 of these dogs were raised outside Spore and brought over, so the long term plan is to train guide puppies here.
Please take a look at the link below to get involved with the charity, to donate or volunteer, or at the very least to educate yourself a bit more about blind peoples’ needs.
I look forward to attending more of the UN Women’s events. They’re involved in many issues both locally and in the region such as domestic violence and human trafficking, and have supported refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border.
If you’re interested head down to The Grand Park Orchard for the next event on the 14th of August at 7pm (events will now be every second Thursday of the month). And then you can head five feet away to the excellent Bar Canary for some cocktails!