SMU President Professor Lily Kong moderates closed-door dialogue session ahead of release of White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development

The International Women’s Forum (IWF) In-Conversation with Minister Josephine Teo was held to engage in meaningful discussions about women’s development

Since September 2020, the Government had partnered civil society, business and community groups to better understand citizens' aspirations for Singapore women, and has held 160 conversations involving nearly 6,000 participants from various walks of life. These Conversations on Women Development was part of  a national review of women's issues which took stock of our current efforts to empower, protect and uplift Singapore women and gave voice to our collective aspirations for Singapore women.

Feedback and ideas from these conversations contributed to the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, which reflects  Singaporeans’ shared vision of a fairer and more inclusive society, where men and women partner each other as equals, and both can pursue their aspirations freely and to the fullest. The White Paper sets out 25 collective action plans by the Government and community, in five main areas:

  • Equal opportunities in the workplace;
  • Recognition and support for caregivers;
  • Protection against violence and harm;
  • Other support measures for women; and
  • Mindset shifts.

The White Paper was released on 28 March 2022 and you can download it from this link and and watch the video here.

Ahead of the release of the White Paper, the International Women’s Forum (IWF) organised a closed-door dialogue to engage in meaningful discussions about women’s development on 24 March 2022. About 39 members from IWF and Young Women Leadership Connection (YWLC) engaged Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo in a lively exchange on the issues of women’s development and progress in Singapore since its independence days.

The two-hour virtual dialogue was set against the backdrop of the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development which traced the progress of local women from pre-independence to 2022.

SMU President Professor Lily Kong, who was the moderator at the session, underscored the importance of the topic by asking Minister about policy changes to help women and to effect shift in cultural and mindset norms from as early as childhood education.

Prof Kong said that “Singapore has come a long way from 1961 when the Women’s Charter was passed as an Act in Parliament. Education has been a key part of women’s enablement in the decades since, but even so, there are still multiple areas that require change to achieve greater gender equality.  There is no silver bullet in this journey.  Clearly, policy and legislative changes will have significant impact.  Policies can address the “where” of gender experience: at work, at home, in cyberspace, and so on.  Policies also need to continue to recognise that “women” as a category is not a monolithic, homogeneous whole, and need to address the experiences of multiple sub-groups, including the low income, single women, women in transnational arrangements and so forth. To effect policy change and shepherd implementation, structural change bears some consideration– such as the introduction of a statutory board to look after the betterment of women’s lives – while recognising both potential merits and drawbacks.”

“At the same time, government efforts must be coupled by contributions by other social and economic actors.  Urban design professionals like architects, and developers have a role to play in delivering cities and buildings that are friendly to women’s needs.  Businesses have a role to play in taking seriously training on biases so that diversity and inclusion is not a luxury but a necessary activity.  The non-profit sector, in the form of organisations like IWF and YWLC, also has a role to play, in undertaking ground up actions.  Underpinning any successful societal shift are cultural and mindset changes and education plays a key role in enabling such changes.  Mindset changes among men are perhaps more urgent.  Mandating practices could have the potential to speed up cultural change, but celebrating and valorising successes are as important.  At the end of the day, multiple efforts on all these various fronts are necessary, and collectively, real change can ensue,” she added.

A wide array of questions and suggestions followed covering issues such as the support for women as caregivers, support for women in the workplace, elective egg-freezing, tackling family violence and sexual abuse, and shifting cultural norms and mindsets to support women’s development. Another issue raised was how women could contribute to the nation in times of crisis, and whether national service could be for women as well.

Minister Teo listened intently to each of the participants’ views, and took time and effort to address each question raised, in the true spirit of engagement to chart the way forward for the growth and development of Singapore’s women.