Speech by Minister Indranee Rajah at PPIS International Women’s Day 2023 Celebrations
PPIS President, Mdm Hazlina Abdul Halim,
PPIS Board Members and CEO, Mdm Tuminah Sapawi,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is such a great pleasure to be here today. Thank you so much for inviting me. It is really nice to be able to come to an event where you can meet with women, in support of women for a stronger community, and to have all the gentlemen here who are supportive as well.
Embrace Equity: Forging Positive Change
This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme – ‘Embrace Equity: Forging Positive Change’, is meaningful. It recognises that each individual has unique circumstances. As a society, there should be resources and opportunities for women to feel empowered to overcome challenges and achieve their potential. Through ‘forging positive change’, PPIS celebrates women’s achievements, while encouraging women to care for their physical, mental, social and spiritual wellness.
Supporting Women’s Development in Singapore
As a young nation, we have made great strides in Singapore women’s development in the last few decades. Today, we have high employment and literacy rates for women. Almost half of our university graduates are women. Singapore is ranked 7th worldwide and the only Asian country in the top 10 for gender equality in the latest UN Human Development Report.
We have many outstanding women who have achieved success in their various fields. I would like to share first on Ms Huda Hamid and Dr Atiqah Azhari who are here with us today. Huda started her video production agency with just $800, a camera and laptop. She now also helps women start their online businesses under Fempreneur Secrets. Member of PPIS Social Service Advisory Committee, Atiqah, is a lecturer of psychology at the Singapore University of Social Sciences and has published numerous papers in high-impact journals at 29 years old. Ms Teo Sze Ying is the first female superintendent of the Tanah Merah Prison school, and also a supermom of four! You might have seen the video I put out, it was very inspiring to learn how she manages both work and family commitments. So Singaporean women are doing well across all races.
We recognise that more can be done to further women’s progress and support them in different areas, including the family. Our society rallied together to discuss ways to better support and uplift women during the Year of Celebrating SG Women in 2021. These conversations culminated in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, which was unveiled in March 2022. A total of 25 actions plans were set out in this White Paper to further improve the lives of our women. Into the one-year mark, we have made good progress.
For example, we recognise that women tend to be the main caregivers in many families, tending to their loved ones, both young and old. A key area of the White Paper is therefore to recognise and support caregivers. Efforts are underway to better care for the well-being of our caregivers, where they can look forward to enhanced respite care options, such as tapping on the broadened service scope of the Household Services Scheme, and community-based peer support networks. By providing more affordable and accessible respite care options for seniors, caregivers will have more flexibility to take time off for self-care and to recharge. It is really important because if you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. There has to be that balance.
To alleviate the costs of caregiving, the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund has been expanded to defray part of the costs incurred by caregivers in caring for our seniors. The Home Caregiving Grant has also been enhanced since 1 March this year to reduce caregivers’ financial strain.
As Singapore develops into a fairer and more inclusive society, we must continue to shift mindsets on gender roles and address the practical challenges that women face. This is another key area in the White Paper. We understand that family support plays a critical part in women’s development.
With more gender equality and shared parental responsibilities at home, women have the necessary support to better focus on their career. At work, equal opportunities for men and women to excel, and a family-friendly culture will provide greater assurance for women to better manage their work and life commitments. This will help our women to maximise their potential and achieve their aspirations – whether it is personal, career or family goals.
It is important to note that men play a key role in encouraging mindset shifts by challenging gender stereotypes and being role models, such as taking on a more active role at home. You know from this year’s budget 2023, We are enhancing the Government Paid Paternity Leave, in fact we have doubled it by two weeks. It is intended to be a signal to everyone and employers that fathers have a role to play. We want to normalise and enable fathers to play a bigger role in raising children. This also helps the wives to balance their roles as they need to focus on their career. Research also show that when fathers are involved in the early stages of children’s lives, the children tend to do better in life.
Partnering the community
A positive sense of community in our whole of society approach will help us achieve more milestones together.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development has dedicated this year to the Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners. It serves to recognise the integral contributions of many partners such as corporates, social service agencies, professionals, academics, social enterprises and volunteers who work with us and each other in nurturing and building lives together.
Our community partners, such as PPIS, play a key role in women’s development. PPIS has been supportive in gathering views to contribute insights to the White Paper. PPIS will be launching its Women Space later this year to further support women in Singapore. The Women Space is a one-stop support for women’s career, legal and wellness needs, as well as a resource platform for women to gain access to information, assistance and referral. It aims to be a safe space for women to convene, connect and co-create initiatives to uplift themselves and one another.
Let me conclude by emphasising that forging positive change to improve women’s life covers many aspects.
The talks by our speakers today will highlight the impact of holistic wellness on active ageing, enabling access to resources and opportunities, as well as a collective approach to advancing women’s aspirations. We can all do our part in taking care of our health and work together as a society that values and supports family well-being and caregiving.
Let’s learn from one another to grow stronger as one cohesive community. I hope from today’s session, you will bring back fresh perspectives to share with your peers, be inspired, so that collectively, we can build a society that supports our women’s progress and well-being.