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Asian women's forum at Stanford

Women in the United States and Asia face common challenges, panelists said at Stanford on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at an open forum about the women's movement in Asia.

Common issues include services for working mothers, prevention of family violence, improved health care, redefinition of gender roles and security against sexual assault, agreed representatives from Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

The seven speakers described women's issues in their respective countries and the ways in which they and their compatriots are addressing them.The presentation was co-sponsored by Volunteers in Asia and Stanford's Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

The Singaporean and Taiwanese delegations spoke proudly of the growing number of women entering the outside labor force, but also noted the added stress for women working both inside and outside the home, and the rising number of children without care.

"There have been findings that women's increased participation in the labor force has been paralled by increased physical and emotional stress and strain as they try to juggle their time between home and work. This calls for deeper re-examination into the roles of men and women in the family and society," said Anamah Tan, member of the Singapore Council of Women's Organizations and president of the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers.

Home economics will be offered in Singapore to both boys and girls beginning in 1994, she said.

She and Janet Yee also described the government subsidies available in Singapore for child-care centers and for working parents to help them pay child-care fees.

In contrast to some other Asian countries, such as China, the government in Singapore is calling for women to have more children. Concern about Singapore's movement toward a "senior citizens' " state, Tan said, has prompted government matchmaking services to encourage women to marry earlier and tax rebates to educated women for each child, up to a total of four.

Angela Pierson of Hong Kong emphasized the importance of valuing services that women traditionally have performed without monetary compensation. Without social and economic support, women may have to abandon these vital service roles for paid work of much lesser value to society, she said. She has helped found a women's center in Hong Kong to support women who work outside and inside the home.

"I am a housewife," she said. "How many men will introduce themselves as househusbands?"

Lily Durianty of Indonesia told about her grassroots effort to coordinate a center for peaceful relations between genders. The center offers counseling services and a hotline for victims of violence.

Kyung-Ja Jung spoke about the growing number of sexual assaults in South Korea. She is an executive of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center.

The panelists, along with about 15 others, were part of a 12-day "women's study program" in the Bay Area.

The tour also included a visit to Planned Parenthood, participation in a self-defense class and a panel discussion about lesbians in the women's movement. Each day the group explored a different theme, including voter education, women in business and grassroots organizing.

"We are here to build bridges - to learn how women in America are responding to these issues and to offer our own experience," Tan said. "We came to the Bay Area because there are many active women's organizations here."

Cliff Chan, coordinator of the Stanford-based Volunteers in Asia program, organized the visit.

Volunteers in Asia has enabled hundreds of Stanford students to teach English and perform community service for a year or two in Asian countries.


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