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【HKFWC40】From organizer to staff, more than 30 years of growth - Ada Leung

If one searches "Tsui Yin Club"  on the internet, one will find several social organizations with this name. But it turns out that a Tsui Yin Club once existed within HKFWC for a long time. This is one of the least known aspects of our  history, and the only records we have  are just photographs. Ada, who was the first president of the club, admits, "It was not popular back then to use a computer for record keeping." This was the first women's group formed at HKFWC, and it was disbanded in 1994, almost eight years after its establishment.

 

Tsui Yin Club

The club was named by a group of women through voting, and the name means "to gather a group of virtuous women". At that time, the club was already providing many services, including the sponsoring of Po Leung Kuk children, holding regular home and prison visits, finding accommodation for new immigrants and offering childcare services, all arranged by social workers. "The mode of operation back then was like that of the present centre, but less systematic."

 

It was remarkable that a women's group could exist back then and achieve so many things on its own.

 

Many club members were housewives who had to do their  household chores with young children at home. Many of their families objected them joining the club at the beginning, especially their husbands. "After all, they would think, 'what on earth are you doing when you always bring children to the HKFWC?'" So Ada encouraged the women to tell their husbands that what they were actually participating in were social activities that gave the women space and opportunity to get out of the home and connect with the community.

 

HKFWC gave women a free atmosphere.

 

Ada recalls that the club focused on guiding the group members to see it as a way to participate in social affairs, not just having fun: "Before we start our activities, we would also explain the purpose for our activities. For example, when we sponsored Po Leung Kuk children, we would talk about the role of a woman or a mother, and of course we would send our members to play and communicate with the sponsored children regularly,  as our way to contribute to society.

 

Impacts

Ada recalls how her thinking had started to change when she first approached the HKFWC: "I first joined the English and Mandarin classes. I was very impressed when the social worker told me why these interest classes were needed, and I realized at that time that, besides being just interest classes, they were the means to give women the opportunity to develop themselves.

 

Talking about her state of mind at that time, Ada said, "Back then I thought  women were already very happy. I had a job after graduating from high school. I was married and had a child. I felt life was perfect in those days. Why do I have to speak up for women and fight for their rights?" Later, a social worker said to her, " Actually, you are very lucky, but many people are not as lucky as you are, and they don't have as many resources as you do. For example, new arrivals, or grassroots women who don't know how to read and write. They need some people to lead them." Only then did Ada realize that there are still grassroots women in society who are in desperate need of support, so she joined with many other housewives to organize the Tsui Yin Club to promote activities for the local community and for the women she serves: "The Tsui Yin Club had given me a new perspective to think about why other women were in such a bad situation. Why don't they have anything? Why don't they have any skills?" The experience of organizing and participating in the Tsui Yin Club has taught Ada a lot and built a solid foundation for her to become a staff member in HKFWC.

 

Taiwan Exchange

In 1993, HKFWC arranged a trip to Taiwan for the Tsui Yin Club for an exchange with other women's groups and to get to know local women's organizations. It was also Ada's first time to learn about cooperatives in Taiwan.

 

 At that time, the HKFWC also wanted to implement cooperatives. I was involved at first and applied for the Chinese Temple Fund. The co-op was intended for a group of women to run a small business, but was subsequently shelved due to personnel changes.

 

Although traveling is now very common, for Ada and the group at the time, it was a struggle to travel to Taiwan for five days and four nights: "Back then, it was a big deal to leave your family for five days. After all, family care was like a woman's 'natural duty' at that time. One particular member felt really not possible to participate because of her family. Fortunately, with the help of the social worker she was able to go with us. We certainly witnessed her change after this trip."

 

Ada recalls that the trip schedule was tight, with many meetings, exchanges and visits every day until evening time. Linda Wong (Director of HKFWC back then, who later became Director of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women) would ask us to share what we had learnt that day. I remember that we also talked about having an annual plan and after observing the cooperatives and services of women's groups in Taiwan, we were all very excited and had many ideas to bring back to Hong Kong. The five-day and four-night trip also helped the group to become closer and more united in their work with women.

 

It was a special experience for Ada and she was grateful for the support of HKFWC. "It was amazing that such a small organization could arrange for us to go to Taiwan to exchange ideas and broaden our horizons."

 

World Conference on Women in Beijing

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing in 1995. It was the first United Nations conference to discuss women's issues after the 1985 Nairobi Conference. Ada, who by then was already a staff member of the HKFWC, was one of several women sponsored to attend the conference. Ada jokingly recalled that Huairou County was a remote place at the time and "Some people said this most remote place was chosen because it would be difficult for the media to come and cover the event."

 

But for Ada, the privilege of attending such a large conference was both a joy and an eye-opener. "Everyone expressed the women's demands of their own countries at the conference. There were also interest classes, such as cooking and handicrafts, all of which were free to attend. The conference was very comprehensive, although communication was not as good as it is now. I learned more about the difficulties women faced in other countries, such as poverty, health, sexual harassment and other issues."

 

Speaking about their participation in the conference, Ada said they were speaking as a coalition on behalf of different women's groups in Hong Kong. "The purpose of the coalition was to bring different women into contact with more global issues and women's issues, and to let the world understand the plight of women in Hong Kong." Joining international events is not easy and Ada and the other women participating really treasured this opportunity as it was such a rare experience.

 

Looking Ahead

From being a service user, to a group organizer to then becoming a staff member, Ada's path at the HKFWC has brought her rich life experience. More importantly, Ada has become like a history book of the HKFWC, recording the growth and changes of the organization, and building a deep friendship with many service users and volunteers.

 

I have been able to meet different people every day. I have made some good friends during service, and saw many good and bad children. Every day our work seems to change in relation to the social system and policies. The epidemic and social problems made many things happen, and our social services have to be adjusted accordingly. 

 

As for the future, Ada hopes that women can become independent individuals: "We have to have our own opinions. Of course we will encounter many difficulties and hardships, but I hope that we can think more. Women can be multifaceted, not performing just a single role only. A woman can be a career person, a good wife and mother and a helper. I just hope women can become such people."

 

 

Interviewed by Kityi Lau & Trevor Ng

Edited by Kityi Lau, Trevor Ng & Alvin Chung