1 Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, presented Singapore’s Fifth Periodic Report at the 68th Session of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The presentation took place on 25 October 2017 (10am UTC) at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.
Country Rapporteur for Singapore's review, Miss Yoko Hayashi, commended Singapore for the remarkable progress made since the last CEDAW review. While noting that there will always be room to improve, several other CEDAW Committee Members also registered the progress and advances made by Singapore.
During the engagement with the Committee, Associate Professor Faishal took the opportunity to highlight Singapore's practical and outcomes-based approach to the realisation of human rights, bearing in mind our unique national circumstances and aspirations. He proceeded to elaborate on Singapore’s efforts under two thrusts: (i) to continue eliminating barriers for women at the workplace, within the community and at home; and (ii) to strengthen efforts to empower vulnerable groups of women.
Eliminating barriers for women
Associate Professor Faishal said that in order to eliminate barriers for women, mind- sets need to be changed. This starts at home where the Government has been promoting marriage as an equal partnership. Leave provisions for fathers were enhanced, to encourage men to share parenting responsibilities. The Government also works closely with the Centre for Fathering, through the Dads for Life movement, to encourage active fathering and raise awareness of men’s roles and responsibilities as fathers, husbands and individual members of the family.
Women now have better support and more options to help balance work and family commitments. Schemes (e.g. WorkPro Work-Life Grant) have been put in place to encourage companies to offer flexible work arrangements to them. This is also extended to husbands and fathers to encourage them to play their part. The Government is ramping up childcare capacity especially in estates with many young families, and expanding eldercare services to support working caregivers. Mothers returning to the workforce after a break can also tap on SkillsFuture initiatives to upgrade their skills.
Associate Professor Faishal also shared that Singapore has been constantly reviewing the practice of Muslim law to ensure that religious practices are progressive and suited to the community in multi-religious Singapore. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, or MUIS, also regularly consults and engages community stakeholders to facilitate understanding and acceptance of gender equality. Consequently, our Muslim community has adopted more gender-equal practices, placing Singapore in greater compliance with our CEDAW obligations.
To strengthen women’s representation in leadership positions, the Diversity Action Committee was set up in 2014 to champion and bring more women onto corporate boards in Singapore. As of June 2017, women’s representation on boards of companies listed on the Singapore Exchange was 10.3%, up from 8.3% in 2013.
Supporting and Empowering Vulnerable Groups of Women
Associate Professor Faishal also spoke on the Government’s targeted assistance for groups of women who require more support. For example, to help elderly women better meet their retirement needs, the Government has made it easier for Central Provident Fund (CPF) members to transfer CPF savings to their spouses. Seniors with little or no savings may also receive Silver Support pay-outs. To allow our elderly women to age comfortably at home, home- and day-care capacity has also been doubled.
Associate Professor Faishal reiterated Singapore’s commitment to eradicating violence against women, and shared on the legislative framework and systems in place to protect women. The Women’s Charter, Penal Code and Protection from Harassment Act, are in place to protect women from violence and harassment. The Women’s Charter was enhanced in 2016 to protect victims of family violence and professionals engaged in protection work. The National Family Violence Networking System also provides multiple access points, for victims to obtain help.