11 April 2017: Yale-NUS hosts annual weeklong activities to raise awareness on migrant workers’ issues

By Julian Low | Images provided by MWAW Committee

Despite the rainy weather on 12 March 2017, there was no dampening the spirits of the students, staff and migrant workers who had gathered at Fort Canning Green. Games, a photo-booth and a light yoga session were just some of the activities that kept everyone entertained, creating a carnival atmosphere. It was a marvellous way to kick-start the 2017 edition of Migrant Workers Awareness Week (MWAW).

MWAW is an annual week-long event, organised by National University of Singapore (NUS) Law and Yale-NUS students, that aims to raise awareness about the various issues faced by different groups of migrant workers in Singapore through a myriad of planned activities.

Some of this year’s activities included field trips to some migrant workers dormitories at Mandai and Tuas as well as a lunch tag cum English and Legal lesson for migrant workers. Amongst the art initiatives were a community art mural placed at the Goodman Art Centre for the public to colour as well as the intricate set-up of a simulated migrant worker dormitory at the NUS Central Library.

Walter Yeo (Class of 2018) who heads the MWAW committee said, “These art initiatives allowed us to have a powerful and emotionally engaging medium to reach out to more members of the public. We also organised a students’ tea session at Tembusu College as a pre-MWAW event to increase publicity and call for volunteers. Thanks to the encouraging feedback that we received last year from our peers and the public, we were able to conceptualise MWAW this year better.”

Undoubtedly, the main attraction was the Dialogue in the Dark sessions held at the Yale-NUS Black Box Theatre. The event allowed students and migrant workers to engage in deep, meaningful and intimate conversations in either single or group sessions in the dark. A popular concept that was very well received last year, this year’s edition proved to be no exception with almost all sessions ‘sold-out’.

Tan Yan Ru (Class of 2019) was one of many who wanted to hear differing perspectives from people that she seldom met. “This session helped me strip away many of the inhibitions that people have when talking about migrant worker issues. I also learnt a lot from hearing about experiences similar to my own being told from another perspective,” she said.

Heng Jia Min (Class of 2020) echoed her sentiments and shared, “My key takeaway from the session was that advocating for migrant workers is not merely a matter of righting wrong. It is allowing people with complex choices and reasons a platform to air their concerns and also to lend them support whenever they need it.” She added that she was very impressed by the amount of effort put in for the activities held this year. “For next year, perhaps an ‘escape room’ theme game could be considered as it might be an interesting yet educative way of learning about migrant workers in Singapore,” she quipped.

With such positive reviews, it is little surprise that the MWAW committee has already started preparations for next year’s edition. “We might plan for more pre-MWAW events to strengthen our publicity efforts.” Walter said.