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Launch of The Lives of Women Exhibition: How have women progressed in Singapore since independence?

In partnership with the National Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF) launched the second of a 3-part exhibition series titled “The Lives of Women” on 2nd November 2019. This exhibition picked up from where the previous one had left off, by telling the stories of women’s lives in post-Independence Singapore (1965 to present day). In addition to tracing how social perceptions of women have changed over the years, the exhibition commemorates women, their impactful contributions to Singapore and unprecedented achievements in various spheres of society.

In celebration of the exhibition’s opening, SWHF held an elegant launch event that was graced by Guest-of-Honour, President Halimah Yacob, SWHF inductees and representatives from SCWO’s member organisations. Dr. June Goh (President of SCWO) gave a welcome address. Sharing about the background as to why the SWHF was set up, she said “Back in 2005, SCWO launched The Wall of Fame to honour Singapore’s pioneering women activists, and by 2010, there were just 9 inductees. But we thought, why stop at this number, when there were many other women who deserved to be recognised, remembered and celebrated. Yet at that point, there were scant records of women pioneers, or at least a consolidated list of them in one place. This was why the SWHF was launched after a few years of intensive research. At the inaugural induction ceremony in 2014, we honoured 108 inductees. The key aim of the Hall of Fame is to document and share the stories of these amazing women”

Dr. Kanwaljit Soin (2014 SWHF Inductee) was invited to share a few words, and in her speech, she recognised the cultural significance of SWHF’s work: by recounting the inspiring stories of Singaporean women (which are often sidelined in our history books), their valuable contributions to society are illuminated and honoured. Although it may take more than a century for the gender gap to be completely bridged, SWHF’s unwavering efforts to highlight Singapore women’s remarkable capabilities and achievements are steps in the right direction. In light of this, Dr. Soin encouraged continued support for SWHF’s future endeavours. The event ended with an extended invitation to Madam Halimah Yacob and distinguished guests to take a walk through the exhibition together.

As an SWHF intern, I witnessed the meticulous hard work that the SWHF team put into organising the exhibition and launch event: from poring over the exact wording of the exhibition panel texts to liaising with museum vendors, volunteer sitters and working out the nitty-gritty logistics. Following the months and months of blueprints, drafts and mock-ups, I can only imagine the immense pride and satisfaction they felt, seeing the final product come together so meaningfully. Having assisted with some interactive elements of the exhibition myself, I too felt rewarded when I saw visitors being fascinated by the typewriter and participating in the weekly quizzes. All in all, it was an honour to have been part of such an important and worthwhile project. Moving forward, I am sure it is SWHF’s desire to continue highlighting Singapore women’s integral role in society and celebrating their outstanding accolades/capabilities.

“In this society, everything is men, men, men. So I come along and say, “Pay more attention to women. I’m a woman.” I would like to have more done for women. It’s as simple as that.” – Oon Chiew Seng, 2014 SWHF Inductee and founder of the first nursing home for dementia patients.

The Lives of Women exhibition will continue to run at the National Museum of Singapore until 19th January 2020 (Saturday). There will be free guided tours on the 2nd and 4th Friday of November and December 2019, and every Friday in January 2020.

Eleanor Que
SWHF Intern

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