SM Teo Chee Hean at the SG Her Empowerment Fundraising Gala Dinner 2024

SM Teo Chee Hean | 2 May 2024

Transcript of remarks by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the SG Her Empowerment Fundraising Gala Dinner on 2 May 2024.


Ms Stefanie Yuen Thio, Chairperson of SG Her Empowerment (SHE),
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening.

Thank you for inviting me to join you on this auspicious occasion of SHE’s inaugural fundraising event.

Women play integral roles in society – in business, science and technology, education, the arts, government, and civil society; and not only as mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters. We have had a woman as President of the Republic of Singapore, the highest office in the land. I am sure that all of us can definitely name women who have had a deeply positive impact in the professional and personal spheres of our lives.

The Government remains fully committed to the advancement of all women. We have long regarded women as equals in our society. One of the first laws we passed was the Women’s Charter – this was in 1961. The Charter established the equal standing of men and women in marriage, and promoted the welfare and protection of women in Singapore. This commitment to the advancement of women is also reflected in our ethos of meritocracy and vision of a society where all Singaporeans can grow to their full potential.

Our approach to women’s development is aspirational, yet pragmatic and outcome based. We have made good progress over the last few decades. In the 2023/2024 United Nations Human Development Report, Singapore was ranked eighth worldwide for gender equality – the top-ranked country in the Asia-Pacific region1. 41% of Singapore’s tech professionals are women, and I meet and work with them on an almost daily basis. This is well above the global average of about 28%2. Close to a third of my parliamentary colleagues – several of them are here this evening – are women, up from just under a quarter five years ago. They are formidable performers – in Parliament, in government and in their constituencies.

Despite the considerable progress, women’s development in Singapore remains an ongoing endeavour. There are many socio-cultural issues that still need to be addressed, and each generation of women faces different challenges from those in the past. One could almost say that women today have many choices, and the choices that they have today actually puts even more pressure on some of them. They can choose what to do but the expectations are also much more. Starting in 2020, the government, in partnership with civil society organisations, organised the “Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development”. This culminated in the 2022 White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, which was endorsed by Parliament. The White Paper provides 25 action plans, including:

(i) building fairer, more inclusive workplaces to better support women in the workforce;
(ii) easing the load on caregivers;
(iii) improving protections against violence and harm directed at women; and
(iv) shifting mindsets on the roles of women in society.

We are working hard to implement these plans in partnership with many civil society organisations.

All of us have a role to play in advancing women’s development. In this endeavour, I should add that the Government, and men - many men are present tonight – are your allies and partners. Business leaders must act if we want more inclusive workplaces. Fathers, brothers and sons must step up so that caregiving duties do not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. And what we do and say every day shapes the views girls and young women have about themselves and their aspirations.

Organisations like SHE are an important part of our collective effort to advance women’s development. SHE has made significant contributions to this endeavour since it was established just a few short years ago in 2022. The research you conduct and the conversations that you facilitate on women’s issues have helped to advance our understanding of the impediments to and enablers for gender equality at home, in the workplace, and in the community. The Sneak Peek programme, which Stefanie described just now, lets young women experience different industries and professions, inspires them to aim high in their aspirations. Alongside these initiatives are programmes like SHE Supports, which is targeted at the low-income, and SHECARES, which provides assistance to women dealing with online harms3.

Encouraging and supporting women to reach their full potential, to lead fulfilling lives and to contribute to the betterment of our society and economy, is an important part of this government’s overall commitment to build social cohesion and unity for a stronger Singapore and better lives for all Singaporeans. When we look around today, the world is beset with strife and conflict. From terrible and tragic wars in Europe and the Middle East, to the so-called “culture wars” besetting and dividing societies including those advanced societies in the United States and also in Europe. These differences are tearing society apart. It looks as though we are finding more and more reasons to disagree, quarrel and confront one another – within societies, between communities and between countries.

Here in Singapore, we have worked hard to build a harmonious and cohesive society. It is not that we do not have differences of views. But we accept that as part of life - especially in our multi-racial, multi-religious society -we learn to respect, accommodate and adapt, rather than insisting on doing things in our own separate ways and accentuating differences between us. We learn to seek out common humanity that unites all of us - those broad areas that should bring us together. We are all human beings, and we work together on our common aspirations.

In our response to these terrible and tragic wars, we do not allow the quarrels of others to be imported into our society and end up with them becoming quarrels among communities within our own country. We have seen how in the past few days, and it is ongoing even right now – demonstrations which started out as peaceful on campuses throughout the United States have not helped to heal the divide, have not helped people to understand each other but in fact have become shouting matches, have exacerbated them, descended into disruptions and violence in dozens of campuses and cities. Instead of letting such tragic events elsewhere divide us, we have united our efforts to help bring some relief to the victims who are suffering. We made that a cause of unity, rather than a reason for quarrelling and disunity. So let us continue here in Singapore with our work of community building, providing opportunities for all, uplifting those who need a little extra support.

The work that SHE does is possible because of strong support from the community. I express my thanks to SHE and its volunteers for the work they do and the difference they make, every day, to girls and women and their families in Singapore. And I thank all of you for your contributions in whatever way you can to support the work of SHE, for women’s development in Singapore, and our national effort to build a fairer, more inclusive, and more united society.

Thank you and have an enjoyable evening.


[1] UN Human Development Report 2023/2024


[2] 2020 report by the Boston Consulting Group and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.


[3] SHE Supports is a recently launched collaboration with NTUC Women and Family to provide resources targeted at the low-income. SHECARES@SCWO is Singapore’s first holistic centre for targets of online harms and was launched in Jan 2023.

Gender equality