Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development
Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim
MSF and M3 Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good morning and welcome to the 7th Engaging Hearts and Minds Seminar.
2. I am glad to see so many treasured partners and familiar faces joining us. Today’s seminar provides us with an excellent opportunity to engage each other, expand our body of knowledge, and learn best practices. As we build “Resilient Families and Successful Communities”. I would like to share why this is important for us, as a nation, and the role of the community. This is timely, and critical, as we see the institution of the family waning and fraying across many societies.
Singapore’s Social Compact and Strong Families
3. In Singapore, the family unit forms the bedrock of our society. Since independence, it has been a key pillar of our Social Compact. Where the Government creates the conditions for growth, builds strong institutions, and expands opportunities for all Singaporeans. Families play an important part. They are the core of our society, and our first line of support. Family members care for one another, through the ups and downs of life. Nothing comes close to the love, care and warmth that they bring. A stable anchor, through the storms, and a source of comfort and strength. Strong families in turn support the building of resilient individuals, who do well for themselves and their families. Supported by a caring community that joins hands with us to enable strong families and resilient individuals.
4. This is why we strive to make Singapore one of the best places in the world for families to germinate, flourish and blossom. We know that stable housing is essential to raising families. So we make HDB flats affordable for all, including the low-income. Housing about 8 in 10 residents. We introduced broad-based schemes, such as Baby Bonus, CDA Top-ups and more to offset the expenses of raising a child. Our streets are safe. Children do not need to fear when they go out. Public infrastructure is also key. Families can visit many beautiful public parks and attractions, which provides opportunities for the formation of close bonds. Research also tells us that the early years of life are a crucial window for development. Families need caregiving support for their child too, as both parents go to work. Hence, we make quality preschool affordable and accessible. Together, with a good quality education system, we give every child the best start in life.
5. Even as we do our best to create a nurturing environment, we recognise that families also have their ups and downs. Sometimes, we emerge stronger out of a crisis, but other times, it leaves us fractured, if we fail to address the root issues. This also applies to marriage, which forms the glue of a stable and strong family. Should it dissolve, the entire family structure crumbles. This is why we actively intervene upstream, where we can, before a marriage or family breaks down. For example, through Marriage Support Programmes to build resilience early, especially for families at risk. And we will do more. We will scale up the Strengthening Families Programme @ Family Service Centres (or FAM@FSC, for short), setting up 10 by 2022. Providing couples and families with access to marriage and divorce support programmes and family counselling. This allows them to address root issues early before they fester.
Community’s Role in Building Strong Families
6. The community too, plays a crucial role, in supporting the formation of strong and stable families and marriages. Complementing existing government support. I will share three ways.
7. The first example is the Bersamamu programme, under M3, which means “With You”. A group of Muslim marriage solemnisers (known as Naid Kadi) started this initiative with the support of the Registry of Muslim Marriages two years ago. As trusted and respected figures in the community, the Naib Kadi guide and mentor soon-to-be and newly wedded couples, on their marriage journey. Providing support at critical junctures.
8. An exemplary example is Ust Nuzhan, who has solemnised a few hundred couples over the past two years. Once, he received a call from a lady who had attended a session. She expressed her reservations in proceeding with her marriage. She wasn’t sure that her soon-to-wed husband would be a good leader to her. She was reluctant to confide in others, to avoid embarrassing him and their families. After hearing her situation, Ust Nuzhan advised her to seek support from her family, and referred her to a helpline for support. He also shared useful videos by Islamic scholars with her. Through these, she eventually gained the strength and courage to discuss her concerns with her partner. Alhamdulillah, the couple is now on their way to a blissful marriage insya Allah. I am glad that close to 13,000 couples have benefitted from Bersamamu since its launch in July 2019, receiving guidance from dedicated Naib Kadi like Ust Nuzhan.
9. Second, the community can step in to provide additional support for families in times of need when the family is most fragile. FITRAH is one such initiative that achieves this. Together with their pool of dedicated community befrienders, they reach out to Muslim families with incarcerated members, and enable them to access the social support they require. For example, financial assistance, preschool, employment assistance and more. This enables the family to attain stability and resilience during this difficult period.
10. Third, we can galvanise different stakeholders, community partners and Singaporeans through new modes of collaboration to co-create and implement solutions to strengthen marriages and families. To this end, we have set up an Alliance for Action, led by MOS Sun Xueling. This community-based model allows us to address ground concerns in a more targeted manner and utilise the assets in the community more strategically.
11. Before I end, allow me to say a few words in Malay:
12. Di Singapura, keluarga membentuk teras masyarakat kita dan menjadi barisan sokongan pertama kita. Keluarga yang kukuh membina individu berdaya tahan, yang cemerlang buat diri dan keluarga mereka, dengan sokongan masyarakat yang prihatin. Inilah sebabnya kami berusaha menjadikan Singapura antara tempat terbaik untuk membangunkan sebuah keluarga. Melalui perumahan dan pendidikan bermutu dan mampu dimiliki, kawasan kejiranan yang selamat, prasarana awam dan bantuan kos membesarkan anak untuk keluarga. Namun, kami menyedari bahawa ada keluarga yang sedang melalui masa yang mencabar. Justeru, kami melibatkan diri pada peringkat awal dan menghulurkan bantuan sebelum perkahwinan dan keluarga berantakan. Kami akan melakukan lebih banyak dan bakal mempertingkatkan Program Pengukuhan Keluarga di Pusat Khidmat Keluarga (FAM@FSC) dengan menubuhkan 10 buah pusat menjelang 2022.
13. Masyarakat juga boleh memainkan peranan. Program Bersamamu adalah contoh yang terbaik. Naib kadi kami telah membimbing 13,000 pasangan sejak ia dilancarkan dua tahun lalu. Mengasuh dan membimbing pasangan yang baru berkahwin dan juga bakal mempelai. Pendamping masyarakat FITRAH menyediakan sokongan bagi keluarga yang terjejas, di saat-saat paling memerlukan. Seperti sewaktu ahli keluarga dipenjarakan. Jadi mereka boleh menjadi stabil dan tidak berpecah belah. Kami juga telah menubuhkan Perikatan untuk Bertindak (AfA) agar pihak-pihak berkepentingan dalam masyarakat dapat menggembleng tenaga untuk bersama mengukuhkan perkahwinan dan keluarga.
14. In closing, I have broadly sketched out Singapore’s approach towards building strong families and the community’s role, setting the context for our discussions. I hope that through today’s seminar, we will not only aim to expand our individual knowledge, but also explore ways to collaborate further, within and across organisations, and to engage families.
15. I wish you a fruitful seminar ahead. Thank you.