Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech at the People's Association's Women's Executive Committee 50th Anniversary Golden Julibee Gala Launch on 6 May 2017.
Dr Amy Khor, advisor to the Women’s Integration Network (WIN) Council and members of the Women’s Executive Committees (WECs), ladies and gentlemen.
Congratulations on your 50th anniversary of WECs and also an early Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers here. It is a great pleasure to come and spend this anniversary with you and to celebrate it with you because the WECs, for many years, have played a valuable role in building our community. You have promoted women’s participation and leadership in the community and in our society.
Back in 1967, when the first women’s sub-committee was formed at Bukit Ho Swee CC, many women were home-makers. You engaged them by providing basic life-skills and the means for employment, such as sewing and hairdressing or social activities to bring them together, like cooking and aerobics exercises. Thus helping them to form bonds beyond their families, and to strengthen the social network in the communities. By catering to women’s specific needs and interests, the WECs has established a wide reach among women. Of course as Singapore progressed, the role of women in our society has also changed. Some would say not quite fast enough, but we made a lot of progress.
No longer just a traditional role of homemaker or caregiver but also working and pursuing your own careers. Now female participation in the labour force is 60 per cent. In fact, if you look at the working age group, 15- 64, it is 72 per cent and we have made progress in all fields. Dr Amy Khor was telling me just now, it is nice for the men, once in a while, to feel what it is like to be a minority. I said I am quite used to that. She said that is true because in the universities, you can have a majority of students who are now ladies, outnumber the men. In careers too, all over you see women doing well and making a success.
Yesterday I commissioned the ship, RSS Independence, at Changi Naval Base. After that I was introduced to the team. On the ship, there were women steering. In the team which designed and built the ship, the leader of the team was a naval architect working in Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and it was a young lady.
Quietly but steadily, we are making a lot of progress and the women have moved up and are playing their full roles in our society. In this environment, the WECs need to continue to function and reinvent yourselves and to meet the changing needs and aspirations of today’s women. You have to maintain your existing networks, meeting the interests of current members, especially the older ones with a mix of programmes such as Qigong, Zumba and oga. Not all of us are as good at 《吃饱没》 as your council but all of us can participate and enjoy ourselves. You also have to come up with new programmes that attract younger women and build their support network within their own neighbourhoods.
WECs can also help women to manage the challenges of their multiple and demanding roles through parenting courses and offering tips on childcare, for example. You are also offering avenues for women from all walks of life to contribute to social causes. You are collaborating with the Caregiver Alliance to support women who are caregivers. You have the GRACE Mentorship programme. GRACE stands for Groom-A-Child-To-Excel and WEC members serve as mentors, provide guidance and support to the girls from low-income families so that they can achieve their dreams. The mentorship is a significant commitment. It is a two-year project and you have to make up your mind you want to do it, and then you take on a mentee and you look after her. But still, we are getting volunteers to come forward and people like Mdm Selvarani, Mdm Karen Took, and of course Ms Joanna Portilla who is organising today’s event, who have stayed on, and treated the mentees like their own children. You have other initiatives too, which you do together with other organisations like the National Campaign on Diabetes which you do with the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
Last month, you have compiled and launched a set of healthy recipes at the Women’s Health Carnival. I hope the recipes will encourage women and their families to eat and live healthily. Because this is a serious challenge and it is one we cannot win without the mothers participating and the wives, putting their gentle words in to nudge their families to do the right thing. WECs will also be launching scholarships for female students, nurturing young women to be community leaders and to continue the WECs’ efforts to enable and support women to fulfil their aspirations and that is why we are presenting the WIN-WEC Scholarships later on. Of course women participate in community activities in PA’s organisations and events in many other ways, and not just WEC.
2,500 are WEC’s members or committees members but altogether we have 17,000 who are volunteering in all of PA’s Grassroots Organisations and this is a testament to your engagement. I would like to thank you all for your services and contributions while juggling the demands of family and career. You embody the spirit of “selfless sacrifice” that helps Singaporeans to succeed. I hope that you will inspire many others to do the same and to help one another move ahead.
You are launching the WEC commemorative book today. It contains many heart-warming stories of how the members and their activities have touched the lives of those around you and contributed to the community. I look forward to you doing more good work and be able to write more books full of heart-warming stories in the years to come. So wishing you all a Happy 50th Anniversary once again. Thank you very much.
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