• Illuminate Singapore

Year in Review: 2020

In 2020, plans were disrupted, delayed and cancelled. As human beings we were broken but with sheer hope, did our best to adjust to a new reality, and so did IlluminateSG.

CommonSpace 3: From sexual harassment to migrant workers

We started off the year, with dreams of conducting our third CommonSpace (CS) event on a much larger scale than before. Stemming from the constant coverage of sexual harassment cases in local universities throughout 2019, this CS was curated to be an intimate discussion with a wide range of people. We planned to bring the polarising conversation that was taking place on social media to the real-world for it to be explored with nuance.

At this time, COVID-19 was just a disease that was lingering in the background and we continued planning our CS with vigour. However, one week to our event there was a change in government guidelines and we were forced to cancel it. Having worked hard on the event, our disappointment was boundless. This had never happened before and we were scrambling to ensure no one was inconvenienced. Then, we decided to take a step back to reconfigure our events.

Singapore started to experience a rising number of cases and by the time April rolled around, the pandemic within our community took a turn for the worst, as it raged across our migrant workers’ dormitories. It brought to light the problems all our foreign workers faced in gaining access to trustworthy information and fair treatment – not just from the government, but also from the general public; and not just after the virus struck their dorms, but also during the decades prior.

The voices of our migrant workers were usually silenced and as a team we forged ahead, with new plans to conduct a fireside chat online on this pressing issue. We were graced with Faiz, a migrant worker, and representatives from TWC2, HOME and Healthserve.

CommonSpace 4: Covert racism

As the Black Lives Matter movement stormed the world following the murder of George Floyd in the USA, we pondered over whether Singaporeans who showed their support for this movement understood the significance and relevance of it. Thus, following the success from our CommonSpace3 on migrant workers, we decided to focus our fourth CS event on covert racism within our country.

Held online, this time instead of a simple fireside chat we followed our original CS format more closely: after a panel discussion among individuals experienced in the field, we split the audience into breakout rooms to discuss personal stories on racism in a civil manner.

Recruitment and restructuring

One of the unexpected takeaways from planning, researching and execution of our CS4 was that we needed help beyond the small group of people we had. We looked into recruitment and in September we welcomed nine members into our team.

At the same time, we at IlluminateSG developed concerns about our goals and direction. With our events we don’t want people to run away from disagreements, instead, we want people to pick up skills on how to resolve them. We want to encourage conversations of topics that have been difficult to navigate – where we do so by learning to be honest with our words and listening to what the other party actually says, instead of what we think we’ve heard.

This brought us back to the drawing board, and it’s where we are at now: relooking into the way we’ve structured our CS events and organised our content.

We’re into our second week of 2021. Despite being continents away, we see stark divisions between citizens in countries. This can have disastrous results on our fellow Singaporeans as well. We aim for a Singapore where diversity is accepted and understood. As IlluminateSG continues with its work, we hope, ultimately, for each Singaporean resident to be able to perceive each other as humans not unlike themselves – even when emotions run high, even when worldviews are polar opposites.

Written by Koay Tze Min and Samihah Niquat Safeel

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