Ms Poh Li San, Grassroots Adviser of Sembawang GRC and the Champion for SG Women’s Festival
Parliamentary colleagues Ms Mariam Jaafar and Ms Hany Soh
Esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen
1. I’m very delighted to join all of you today to be a part of the SG Women’s Festival.
2. I heard just now about how this festival has been around for years. This is amazing because it rallies people together to celebrate the achievements of women. And even more importantly, this year, there is a contest to recognise SG Heroines. It's very timely because we've had a very unprecedented year filled with challenges, and many women have risen to the occasion. It's not the winners who we celebrate today. But the spirit of resilience that so many women have displayed during these difficult times, playing the many roles that Ms Poh Li San mentioned earlier.
3. During this pandemic, women have had many challenges. Several industries that women have been involved in – hospitality, food and beverage services – have been badly hit. Some women have had no choice but to go on no-pay leave. Others had to work with work for less hours and less pay. They also had to juggle work from home together with their caregiving responsibilities; many of their children might also have been doing home-based learning. So there were added pressures that women faced during this very difficult period.
4. Some of you may know that last year, the government of Singapore launched the Conversations in Singapore Women's Development. We have always been very concerned, and have been monitoring women's progress in Singapore for the past six decades. Women have made great progress when it comes to education as well as employment opportunities. But our work to further women's progress cannot end just because we think that we are in a good place. We have to continuously think about what are some of the pain points that women face.
5. So in the past year, we've had more than 160 conversations. We have engaged about 6000 participants – men and women across all age groups, students, retirees, people who are working. They have provided a lot of feedback. We have consolidated those inputs and we will be debating in Parliament soon on a White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development. I would now like to touch on three major areas that the White Paper will be touching on.
i. Firstly, Equality in the Workplace. We are committed to building fair, inclusive and progressive workplaces and removing barriers that hinder women from entering, remaining, and thriving in their careers.
ii. The second major area of focus is Equality in Home and Society. We will provide stronger support to women who tend to shoulder a larger part of caregiving responsibilities and do more to care for the well-being of caregivers.
iii. Thirdly, we will look at better Protection of Women Against Violence and Harm. Singapore must be a place where all of us can feel safe, and we do not tolerate any violence and harm against women in our society. Our laws and norms must reinforce a strong culture of safety and respect in our society.
6. Beyond our laws and policies, a whole-of-society effort is also required. And that is because it is not just about legislation and policies. It is also about mindsets. The role of women, what women can do, what women are doing and also the level of respect accorded to women in society is actually a very important signal as to how fair and how inclusive our society is. So apart from the Government looking into what are the policies in those three major areas that I highlighted earlier, a very important part of the Conversations on Singapore Women's Development is also for us to collectively think about how each and every one of us can support women's progress in Singapore.
7. That is why, together with the Conversations of Singapore Women’s Development, the Ministry of Social and Family Development had designated 2021 as the Year of Celebrating Singapore Women. Some of you may have seen in collaterals as well as various other marketing platforms, how we have been sharing about the various role models of women around us. They are role models in industry of their practice, they are role models at home, they are role models, perhaps in a community. And I think as SG Heroines is precisely what we are encouraging, for all of us to recognise all these angels, all these heroines around us. So I'm delighted to see that SG Heroines honour Singaporean women who have shown resilience and perseverance and who have left a positive impact on others. The aim is to recognise these amazing women and also to inspire others. The contest was open nationwide, for residents to nominate women who are inspiring and influential in every respect, in every aspect of being resilient. And I know that there are many, many more who are also deserving of this recognition.
8. So I think today's event is the start of the recognition or even more SG Heroines in years to come and I'm really looking forward to that. I have looked at the track record of our SG Heroines awardees today. And every nominee of the SG Heroines contest has inspiring stories to share. This is a platform to celebrate their dedication, their touching stories of love, strength, and courage, as well as their immense contributions to society and to their families. Along with the theme of today's event, Recharge Renew, Rebound, this is a space for women to share their stories and connect with each other and find ways to render mutual support. I'm very sure that this will inspire more women to believe in themselves and persevere despite the many challenges that we see today.