Having attended a girls’ school for 10 years, I never doubted that women were and are as capable as men. However, the sociology classes I took in university opened my eyes to the reality of glass ceilings, gendered division of labour and under-representation of women in various fields, all which still prevail in Singapore. This pushed me to pursue my interest in women’s causes; I decided to apply for an internship at SCWO after hearing about it through the New2U Thrift Shop in 2018. In my 3.5 months here, I have learnt much about the multitude of other programmes/initiatives run by the organization. Working alongside like-minded colleagues and volunteers who see value in the women’s causes as well was encouraging; I felt proud to be part of such a holistic, cohesive network of support for women in Singapore.
Of course, as an intern working on the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF), I hold the initiative closest to my heart. While assisting with the “The Lives of Women” exhibition, I pored over the profiles of our 160 SWHF honourees. I quickly gathered that the initiative aimed to recognise outstanding women, celebrate their remarkable achievements and most importantly, ensure that their stories & legacies would be remembered. Reading about their unprecedented endeavours inspired me, but also left me feeling regretful – why hadn’t I learnt about them earlier? And how do we ensure that future textbooks capture pioneering women and the integral roles they play in shaping Singapore?
In light of this, I was reminded of the words of Dr. Anamah Tan. “… if there is to be a sea change in attitude on gender discrimination, we have to raise the consciousness in the minds of not just the women and girls but also, just as importantly, the men and boys.” Consequently, monitoring the exhibition visitors’ feedback became a keen point of interest for me. My favourite comment affirmed the pertinence of closing those “textbook gaps” and resonated with Dr. Tan’s words. It came from a middle-aged gentleman, who admitted that it was difficult for him to empathise with women and the discrimination they face. However, he added that the exhibition had deepened his respect for Singapore’s women and their resilience. His words touched me, I found it heartening to see the objectives of SWHF well-captured and well-received.
“So who’s your favourite honouree?” This question came up while I was explaining SWHF to a friend. I hesitated to answer, not because I doubted these women’s accomplishments, but because I was sure that the depth and dimensions to each of them surpassed their 500-word biographies. This became especially clear while I was doing research on 2020’s SWHF inductees. Besides honing my research technicalities, I had the honour of interviewing a few inductees/their loved ones. Hearing their anecdotes first-hand, being privy to their precious memories and personal photographs made me realise that whatever I had read about them beforehand was merely the tip of the iceberg. Extrapolating this idea, it became apparent to me that all women, SWHF honouree or not, are unique personalities with their own strengths and complex histories to tell. Thus, my resolution is simple: to greater appreciate and support the women I already have the privilege of knowing closely. Society has definitely progressed, but I still look forward to the day where women’s potentials are not undermined by gender biases and their brilliance/contributions can be unequivocally recognised.