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Paddles up to Rise up – a look at domestic workers in sport

Copyrights: Race2Share (Singapore)

Paddles up to Rise up – a look at domestic workers in sport

Race2Share is a localised initiative in Singapore using the sport of dragon boating to challenge stereotypes and to push for inclusion and independence.

In Singapore, 253,800 of all the foreign workers are from the domestic work sector as reported by Singapore’s government employment agency, Ministry of Manpower. The majority, by far, are from Indonesia and the Philippines; smaller numbers come from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, India, Thailand, and Bangladesh.

These workers receive one day off every week and are often seen hanging out in the parks or malls. They are considered one of the marginalised groups in the society, often subjected to stereotypes and social exclusion due to their economic status. 

In 2015, a ground-up movement called Race2Share was founded by Jen Macapagal, together with athlete friends, with the aim of utilising the sporting environment to create a positive impact in the society. The movement started by raising funds through competing in marathons and triathlons to support cause-based organisations in the Philippines and Singapore. The organisation managed to (and continuously do) amplify awareness on various causes relating to HIV prevention, sexual abuse of deaf women and children, people with disabilities, women empowerment and education. 

Race2Share identified the foreign domestic worker (FDW) sector in 2016 as a focal point to further narrow its advocacy and mission. The organisation started working with FDWs through a local welfare organisation by supporting its cycling event through sport clinics and sending off cycling marshals during the event. 

Copyrights: Race2Share (Singapore)

Eventually, Race2Share started providing dragon boat sessions to FDWs in April 2017 where the first ever all-FDW dragon boat crew was established with the aim of empowering and supporting FDWs to realise their potential through the sport of dragon boating. This has enabled our members to be able to participate in some of the major local dragon boat races in Singapore and compete alongside the strong dragon boat crews in Asia. 

While sport may not directly provide a solution to the deeply rooted structural issues affecting domestic workers, it has identified a gap that could improve the social convention by providing a supportive and nurturing environment for foreign domestic workers through various sport programmes.

Race2Share has continued providing sport programmes (including multi-sport) because the individual’s progress and improvements, in terms of fitness and self-esteem, was extremely encouraging. 

Race2Share aligns its mission with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which explicitly stressed the role of sport in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and highlighting its invaluable contribution of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in establishing sport as a unique means for the promotion of peace and development. Race2Share’s work focuses on SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being, SDG 5 - Gender Equality, SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities and SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities. 

Race2Share has now produced paddlers, canoers, ultra-marathon runners, regular runners and endurance athletes. Sport for all is indeed possible. In fact, competition is the least important factor when it comes to nurturing individuals to become athlete-minded, it is the sense of community and spirit of camaraderie that allows us to hone talents and unleash potentials. 

Copyrights: Race2Share (Singapore)


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Jen Macapagal


Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - 11:35