Vivian Lim, co-founder of Women In Asia, empathizes on inclusive conversations using cultural sensitivity and contextualization

Written by AJ Cortese Published on     3 mins read

Vivian emphasizes having inclusive discussions with diverse perspectives.

Vivian Lim is a multitalented community builder. She is the Lead Curator at TEDxSingapore, co-founder of Women in Asia, and was selected among The Obama Foundation’s inaugural leaders for Asia Pacific in 2019. 

KrASIA (Kr): Who is an ally in your life that you’d like to thank personally? 

Vivian Lim (VL): I’ve always been very fortunate to have mentors and allies along the way. Not just women, but also men who have helped me in sharing, in guiding and basically connecting the dots for me.

I think truthfully, it’s really very hard to identify just one person. It is really a group of people.

I’m also a firm believer of having this whole reverse mentorship relationship as well.

With allies who are younger and maybe less experienced, there’s actually a lot more to learn as well from them. It’s really about supporting and learning from each other. I get excited talking to different people. It is really this collective spirit of allies who shares the same vision. And sometimes it’s this bunch of allies that see the light at the tunnel before you yourself sees it. I think this is sort of the magic moment or you know, the pivotal moment.

Vivian Lim (right) at TEDxSingaporeWomen 2019 Bold + Brilliant event with co-founder Divya Parmar (left). Photo courtesy of TEDxSingapore.

Kr: What have you learned from the allyship within the TEDxSingapore community?

VL: Learning from the community really increases your cultural sensitivity. So when we curate topics, or themes, it’s always starting with asking the community: what would you like to discuss? What excites you? We cannot underestimate the element of inviting the audience to participate and share their voices.

We have learned to bring women from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, to share so that we hear different opinions as much as possible. Whenever we run our gender related discussions, we bring men into the picture as well.

So it’s never just women in the group. But it’s really bringing people who care about that subject matter and having a discussion because everyone wants to work towards identifying a solution or creating a change.

Vivian is also co-founder of Women in Asia, holding workshops and discussions on women’s equality and other gender issues.

Kr: How would you describe the activism around women’s equity in Singapore and the region?

VL: I think Singapore has been quite fortunate compared to some other cities or countries where the women’s voices really get oppressed. We are in a better position, as it’s not rare to have open discussions. We have our own activism groups that have been spearheading the women’s movement for years even before us.

It’s very different across different cultures for women in Singapore versus women in India and in Indonesia. It has very much different meaning, different cultural influences, different family influences. So I think we are always focusing on contextualization. It is important for the community to tell us what are the local stereotypes and status quo that need to be challenged.

Youth visual storytelling program with Women In Asia team and volunteers. Photo courtesy of Lim.

Kr: How has the pandemic impacted the progress for women’s equity in the workplace?

VL: I think this is a constant fight at least until the pandemic is over. But I do see the positives because there’s so much more visibility about this unfairness, you know, the unfair domestic workload that’s happening in countless households. It’s quite interesting to compare between women in certain cities in Asia, compared to women in the West.

In terms of solutions, last year, we held a discussion focused on gender boxes, or gender roles. And I think in particular, this may be something that would resonate very deeply in Asian cultures, where the women gender box would be a lot stronger or more defined than the Western women gender box. In the western cities.

It was nice and refreshing to have a conversation with the community and realizing that we’re talking a lot about celebrating women this year with more activism, raised voices, but what’s actually been done, right?

Profiles of incredible women are exhibited at an event. Photo courtesy of TEDxSingapore.

The next step is to ask: what kind of things can we do to ensure that we don’t continue this form of stereotypes or gender boxes and pass it on? Can we start educating children, not just young girls, but young boys, on gender roles? It is worth trying to inculcate all these role models onto them at a younger age, rather than having to fight the problem when they reach parenthood.


AJ Cortese


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