One is a trailblazing magazine editor. Another helped to resolve refugee crises around the world. Another one built a pipeline of well-trained early childhood education professionals for Singapore. Two turned their passion for fashion into thriving businesses. Another two have taken feminist discourse in the arts to new heights. And the youngest is the first woman to command a fighter squadron in Singapore.
These are the eight women inducted today to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF), bringing to 182 the total number of women honoured for their outstanding achievements and contributions.
At the 9th SWHF Induction Ceremony, which was held at the Istana, President Halimah presented each of the eight woman with The Flame, the glass trophy that symbolises the vitality of the women in the Hall of Fame and the torch of inspiration that is passed from one generation to another.
Saleha Mohd Shah
Trailblazing magazine editor
Pioneering fashion designer and entrepreneur
Khoo Kim Choo
Pioneering educator and early childhood development specialist
Global refugee crises problem-solver
Trailblazing artist and arts activist
Pioneering fashion designer and entrepreneur
Internationally acclaimed novelist and playwright
Singapore’s first female fighter squadron commander
The eight women are:
- Trailblazing magazine editor Saleha Mohamed Shah, who in the 1950s and 1960s was the editor and sole writer of the first magazine for Malay women in the region.
- Pioneering fashion designer and entrepreneur Celia Loe, who at her peak had more than a dozen stores in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and London.
- Pioneering educator and early childhood specialist Khoo Kim Choo, who played a key role in the transformation and growth of Singapore’s early childhood education sector.
- Global refugee crises problem-solver Janet Lim, who in 34 years with the UNHCR helped to establish the UN refugee agency’s emergency response capacity and improve collaboration within the humanitarian community.
- Trailblazing artist and arts activist Amanda Heng, who is one of the first artists in Singapore to explore feminist issues in her work and to use performance art to express her ideas.
- Pioneering fashion designer and entrepreneur Esther Tay, who was the first Singapore designer to break into the Japanese retail market.
- Internationally acclaimed novelist and playwright Ovidia Yu, whose Crown Colony series of historical murder mysteries has been optioned for television by an international production company.
- Singapore’s first female fighter squadron commander Lee Mei Yi, who hopes her example of success in a male-dominated profession will encourage more women to pursue their passions and not let gender be a show-stopper.
The eight women join the 174 inducted to the Hall of Fame since 2014, when it was launched by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Singapore’s most outstanding women, and to document and share their stories. The SWHF induction ceremony is the highlight every March of SCWO’s International Women’s Day celebrations.
SCWO President Junie Foo said: “When we launched the Hall of Fame in 2014, we had two aims – one is to identify and honour our most outstanding women, and the second is to record their stories and to share these widely so as to inspire others, especially young girls, to set their sights high and to chase their dreams, even if there are obstacles in their way.
“It is so important for the young to have role models, people they can look up to and be inspired by. The women in the Hall of Fame are fantastic role models. Many faced obstacles as they pursued their dreams and ambitions, but they persevered, and they persisted, and they eventually saw success. This is the message of the Hall of Fame – these women did it, and so can you.”
As part of the effort to get the inspiring stories of the Hall of Fame women to young Singaporeans, SCWO in collaboration with Epigram Books published Awesome Women of Singapore, a book for young readers. The book, which was launched by President Halimah at the 7th SWHF Induction Ceremony in March 2021, has short profiles of the 160 women then in the Hall of Fame.
In tandem with the publication of the book, SCWO launched Project Awesome, which aims to get every child in Singapore, and especially girls, to dream big, aim high, chart their own path and live their lives at the fullest potential.
Complimentary copies of Awesome Women of Singapore were provided to all primary and secondary schools, madrasahs, and children and youths homes in Singapore. The schools and homes were also offered a range of resources, such as lessons plans, a life-path workshop, and exhibitions and talks, to help teachers use the Awesome Women stories to instil in students important core values and personal skills.
“In the 2021-2022 period, even with the pandemic restrictions that severely limited our access to schools and students, we were able to reach some 6,500 students via Project Awesome,” said Ms Foo.
“The response to the Project Awesome events we were able to organise was very positive, and our target for 2023 is to have 16,000 students take part in at least one Project Awesome activity.
“We plan to launch later this year an annual Project Awesome art competition for youths. This is to build the pool of artwork and other visual materials that we can use for Project Awesome, and also to expose more young people to the Project Awesome message of empowerment and self-determination.”
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