FabFriday: Dr Noeleen Heyzer – Women Who Dared

I have taken many things in Singapore for granted.

And until last Friday, I wasn’t aware of the many things that were done for me by women who have gone before so that I didn’t have to fight for it.

Did you know polygamy for non-muslims was still legal in Singapore until 1961 when the Women’s Charter was passed? This meant that many women did not have fundamental rights prior to that. A lady named Shirin Fozdar was instrumental in pushing for such change in Singapore.

Before my mentor, Ms. Claire Chiang, invited me to attend the Inaugural Shirin Fozdar Programme Annual Lecture at the Singapore Management University, I had never heard of her. But now that I have, I wonder why they didn’t teach us about her in school!

20160902_171727
Ms. Claire Chiang giving her welcome address
20160902_181436
Q&A session moderated by SMU Provost Professor Lily Kong.
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From Left to Right: Ms. Claire Chiang, Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Professor Lily Kong and Professor Arnoud De Meyer, President of SMU.

The topic of the Annual Lecture was At The Frontlines of Change: Women Who Dared By Dr. Noeleen Heyzer. Dr. Hayzer is a Social Scientist and Former United Nations Under Secretary-General. She was the first woman

  • to serve as the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and
  • from outside North America to head the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) becoming its longest serving Executive Director for 13 years.

Her lecture highlighted the contributions of well-known women leaders around the world like Hillary Clinton, who could possibly be shattering one big glass ceiling in November, and local ladies like war heroine, Elizabeth Choy, and issues of inequality that women still face in parts of the world today.

Dr Noeleen Heyzer and Lise Chew

Lise Chew and Ho Kwon Ping
Me and Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts. He also sits on the Board of Trustees for SMU.
Lise Chew Briget Choy
Left to Right: Myself, war heroine Elizabeth Choy’s daughter, Bridget Choy, and some lovely ladies who went to St. Margaret’s too.

 

Claire Chiang and Lise Chew

Here are 3 points that resonated with me:

  1. “If you teach a woman to fish, she’ll not just learn how to fish, she will change the whole fishing industry.” – Dr. Noeleen Heyzer

  2. When asked what are the conditions we need to have in Singapore to have a female Prime Minister, Dr Heyzer said there need to be firstly more women on boards (only 9% in Singapore) and in Cabinet; and secondly, women will need the men to support them and push them into positions of power.
  3. For there to be any kind of sustainable change, everyone at all levels of society need to be stakeholders to push change forward. Whenever people use the word “stakeholders” I’m always a bit befuddled because why does it sound like a corporate governance lecture and nothing to do with me? But then I’ve realised that for anyone to truly care about anything, they need to have some skin in the game.

Hence. Thus. Therefore.

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