Want to join social work? Be a ‘fool’ like this social worker

Ian Peterson has worked for 18 years as a social worker, without losing his resolve. His secret? Faith, openness, optimism and love.

When Ian became a social worker 18 years ago, people sometimes called him a fool. His profession was not well understood then and he was seen to be just a “paid volunteer”.

Now, though, “fool” has taken on a new meaning in his life.

Each letter of the epithet stands for one of his ideals.
“F” is for faith – in people and their assets.
“O” is for openness to the experiences of clients and their families.
“O” is for optimism in the face of difficulties.
“L” is love for social work.

The 46-year-old’s sense of purpose is an integral part of fulfilling his daily responsibilities as the Cluster Director (Northwest) of Care Corner Singapore Ltd.

He works with vulnerable clients and fellow social workers, overseeing three family service centres at Admiralty, Queenstown and Woodlands. In his time, he has helped those struggling with family violence, gambling and drug addiction. A proponent of an integrated approach to social service, Ian coordinates with his colleagues to identify common issues that clients face. Based on these findings, together they might launch targeted and group programmes for these clients.

Ian is now working with MSF, applying his knack for community-based care to launch Community Link (ComLink) at Marsiling. As part of this initiative, social service hubs will be launched in four areas: Jalan Kukoh, Marsiling, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Boon Lay. Overall, ComLink will benefit some 1,000 families staying in rental flats. While ComLink is new, Ian says it builds on current support networks.

“I believe that in every community so far that I’ve worked with, there is some level of community participation already.  You are just enhancing what’s existing to see whether you can take it to the next level.”

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Ian having discussion with his colleague

For Ian, the relationship between social workers and clients is a collaborative journey. Clients do not simply have deficits but bring their own assets to the table, he says. His work involves collaborating with clients and “helping them to reach that level of motivation, where they can move on in life and to increase their social mobility”.

For example, Ian once worked with a family going through a painful divorce. In “journeying” together with the mother and her three children, Ian saw them create new meaning in their adjusted lives. “They became strong pillars of support for each other, especially when they were able to open up and share how difficult it was to lose the dad.” The older children had to step up to help with housework, and for the youngest, the challenge was homework.

Community, it seems, is never far from Ian’s musings on social work. As the “fool” says: “Always know that there’s always a lot of team support and community network that exists.”

MSF will be working with community partners to launch ComLink in four estates to provide more integrated and coordinated support for families in rental flats. Read more about this here.

More on MSF’s announcements here.

70-year-old Colours Her Way to Health

At the Fei Yue Senior Activity Centre in Hougang, a fellow resident passes Mdm Jaya Lidya d/o Samuel  an outline of a house overlooked by trees. Beaming, Mdm Jaya gets to work, shading the branches brown. This is part of a typical day for the 70-year-old who, like the scene she is colouring, is a picture of exuberance.

When she was young, though, Mdm Jaya contracted polio, which has affected her mobility. In spite of her condition, she is determined to live a full life, enjoying wheelchair dancing, flower making, cooking and bingo, – among other activities at Fei Yue Senior Activity Centre.

Mdm Jaya is also close to her family. She lives with her sister in a HDB studio apartment. She has a big extended family, too, including nephews and nieces who like to share jokes with her whenever they visit.

Besides this crucial family support, she receives cash assistance as part of ComCare Long Term Assistance (LTA). Since 2016, this scheme has helped to defray some of her living and medical expenses.

From 1 July 2019, Mdm Jaya, along with other ComCare LTA beneficiaries, will receive an increase in cash assistance.

Mdm Jaya cites her family and her social service officer from Social Service Office @ Hougang, Priya d/o Sreetharan, as her pillars of support.  Having worked together over the past two years, Mdm Jaya and Priya have grown particularly close. This connection is important, says Priya, for understanding and meeting the needs of those they serve.

Mdm Jaya_3
Mdm Jaya with Priya from Social Service Office @ Hougang and Moses from Fei Yue Cluster Support

Apart from ComCare LTA, Mdm Jaya receives aid from the Silver Support Scheme and the Pioneer Generation package. Helping Mdm Jaya get the best support from the network of support, Priya says, requires coordination between various agencies, like Fei Yue Senior Activity Centre and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where Mdm Jaya receives her medical treatment.

For Mdm Jaya, volunteering is all part of quality living. She takes part in various events by organisations for the disabled, and is helping to raise funds for the Singapore Cancer Society.

“I do a lot of activities,” says this pioneer who has become an invaluable member of her community. “You can say I’m quite busy!”

For more information on the ComCare enhancements, see here.

More on MSF’s announcements here.

Changing lives with a PoP

After an enviable medical and corporate career, Dr Rajeshree Nimish Parekh has dedicated her life to empowering women. Her method of choice: empowering women through the intricacies of beading and braiding.

Bracelet-making involves a rhythm. “Left, right, in, out, again and again,” says Dr Parekh, affectionately known as Gina by her colleagues, who has found the looping of strings into knots to be a “soothing influence”. Since turning this hobby into a charitable enterprise, she has introduced other women to its joys—and its empowering effects.

As part of her PoPstrings Project, residents at the Star Shelter bond through learning to make bracelets. PoP stand for “Power of Positivity”. For these survivors of domestic violence, braiding and beading are a means of earning supplementary income when the finished products are eventually sold.

Before turning her hands to beads and threads, Dr Parekh had applied her dexterity to surgery.

In India, where she was born, Dr Parekh was the chief operating officer and medical director at UnitedHealthcare India. She was also consulting and working for various companies from her time in India to Singapore. The corporate world, though, left her with the nagging feeling that “there was something missing in my life”.

She took a break from work and started braiding as a hobby. Along the way, she would gift family and friends her creations.

 Her bracelet-making hobby would evolve after a chance meeting with mutual acquaintances at a wedding in Kenya. One was a Star Shelter employee. They chatted and met up with fellow women at the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), which founded the shelter in 1999. At that meeting, Dr Parekh offered her medical skills. To her surprise, SCWO was most drawn to her PoPstrings Project.

Dr Gina-1746

When asked what empowerment means to her, she says it is a level playing field for everyone, and the ability to express yourself. “It doesn’t necessarily have to mean that women must have corporate careers or be at the workplace. Empowerment can even be having equal footing in the home environment, where you are respected for who you are and your opinion is valued.”

Looking back at her career, Dr Parekh recalls often being the only woman at meetings between senior leaders. With PoPstrings however, she is intent on keeping the project as inclusive as possible.

Residents sometimes will bring their children along for braiding classes. When a resident’s nine-year-old son asked if he could learn how to braid, Dr Parekh’s answer was obvious.

“I said ‘sure’. I’m not setting gender stereotypes here.”

 

Working together to support children with developmental needs

Iyad Perdaus, the childcare department of voluntary-welfare organization Perdaus, has a Learning and Development Support Unit (LDSU) that runs the MSF-funded Development Support and Learning Support (DS-LS) programmes. This programme, run by therapists and specially-trained Learning Support Educators (LSEds), provide targeted support for pre-school children with mild developmental needs.

As shared in MSF’s Committee of Supply debates 2017, MSF will expand the development support programme to more preschools and build up a pool of 200 LSEds. We speak to Mdm Zaiton Mohd Ali, Head of Iyad Perdaus, on how they are running the DS-LS programme in their centre. Also read about LSEds here and other support services for children with special needs here.


Q: Tell us about Iyad DS-LS

Iyad Perdaus was appointed by MSF on 1 April 2017 as one of the centres providing the Development Support and Learning Support (DS-LS) programmes. We aim to improve children’s developmental outcomes and achieve better school-readiness. Currently, all three of our centres are running the programme to benefit more children.

LDSU Briefing and Sharing
 LSEds doing a briefing and sharing session for our kindergarten teachers on tools for screening.

Q: Share with us about your learning support programmes.

The form teacher uses the Ecological Congruence Assessment to assess if any K1 and K2 children may require additional learning support. Our LSEds will conduct further screening using multiple sets of assessment tools. The children will be referred to a MSF-contracted Educational Psychologist and the consultant team from KKH and NUH.

Based on the child’s needs, a Development Support or Learning Support programme will then be offered to the child once his/her parents have given their consent. Priority will be given to a K2 child as he/she has a shorter runway to start primary school.

In 2018, we have served over 35 children. We are glad that most parents are very supportive of the programme to help the child to be more ready for Primary 1.

Teaching Materials 3
Activities to help children learn to read lower-case letters.

Q: Any memorable stories about students?

Teachers noticed that one child struggled to stay engaged during large group lessons and required one-to-one guidance during writing and reading classes. The LSEd identified that he needed Learning Support in the area of Literacy, and worked with him on areas such as how to write letters, read by sight, and construct sentences.

The child has since shown progress. He can read all lowercase letters and more than 10 common words, and construct at least 4- to 5-word sentences about a picture. In the classroom setting, the child is now more engaged during literacy and writing activities. This is made possible with the collaboration of the class teachers who incorporated some of the strategies shared by the LSEd.

Parents play an important role in the child’s progress and development. His parents were involved through the Home Programme, where the child continues to practice the skills and strategies learned during the sessions and utilise the resources shared by the LSEd through hands-on games or activities at home.

Q: Any key takeaways from running the programme?

With consistency and collaboration from all the stakeholders – parents, teachers and LSEds, children receiving DS-LS will be able to acquire the skills and knowledge, increase their level of engagement, participation and independence, as well as strengthen their social interaction and relationship. It makes our team proud and happy when our students make progress and adjust better transiting to primary school.

What is a Learning Support Educator?

As a Learning Support Educator (LSEd), Cheryl Goh serves a few PCF Sparkletots preschools that offer the Development Support and Learning Support (DS-LS) programmes.  At the end of each intervention session, she goes through the session summary with the preschool teacher on strategies taught and how the teacher can use them at an appropriate time.

 As announced in MSF’s Committee of Supply 2017, MSF will be expanding the DS-LS programmes to more preschools, and build up a pool of 200 LSEds over the next five years. Also learn more about the programmes from childcare centre Iyad Peradus here and other support services for children with special needs here.

We speak to Cheryl about her three-year experience as an LSEd.

Q: What made you decide to become a Learning Support Educator?

As a child, I faced challenges in understanding the numeracy concepts or language taught in school and remembered how helpless I felt, in the classroom with little support. This experience in my early years piqued my interest to pursue a career in early childhood education, as I wanted to make a difference in nurturing young children and helping them take the first steps to a bright future.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Educational Studies and Leadership, I joined PCF Sparkletots as a Childcare Teacher in June 2012.  While I enjoyed my role, I desired to do more to support children who required learning support. As the largest preschool employer in Singapore, PCF Sparkletots offers multiple career tracks for educators who wish to pursue different career pathways. PCF Sparkletots facilitated my request for a transfer and I went on to complete the Specialist Diploma in Early Learning Support before embarking on my journey as a Learning Support Educator in the Development Support (DS) & Learning Support (LS) Programme in Jan 2015.

It has been such a rewarding and meaningful experience seeing the children and their families benefit from the DS-LS Programme, and I am glad to be part of their learning journey.

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Cheryl working with a student.

 

Q: What do you do as an LSEd?

Together with my Mentor LSEd, we facilitate Teacher’s Briefing sessions by guiding PCF Sparkletots teachers on identification of children with mild developmental needs with use of the Ecological Congruence Assessment (ECA) form and other relevant information. When teachers identify students, we follow up to establish the developmental needs of the child during screening by conducting both standardised (e.g. for general development and literacy) and non-standardised assessments (e.g. observations and child’s work samples).

We provide learning support packages (Literacy, language & Social Skill Group) for the children identified and in-class support for children in the DS Programme. We also collaborate with key stakeholders to support and equip parents and teachers with the strategies to help and empower them and the children under their care.

Q: Any memorable moments at work?

It is always memorable seeing the child applying new acquired skills and using the strategies back in the class after intervention has ended. We teach the child strategies to better function in class. For example, the child learns how each letter sounds and how to spell unfamiliar words by blending the letter sounds. At home and in the class, the child uses these skills to write sentences about a picture, or to spell unfamiliar words.

Q: Any words of encouragement for LSEds?

Relax and enjoy the journey! Ask as many questions as you can when you are in doubt. There is a wealth of knowledge that we can tap from other professionals. Be proactive and be open to feedback and suggestions. Each child and family is unique and requires different approaches to succeed. What works with one child may not work with another. Hence, explore, be creative and be flexible. 🙂

The community has a role to play in tackling issues of family violence

The following piece is an op-ed on family violence by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim which was published in Berita Harian on 25 September 2018. The English translation is appended below for reference.


Masyarakat punya peranan tangani isu keganasan keluarga

BARU-BARU ini, saya hadiri satu persidangan anjuran Rumah Wanita Casa Raudha mengenai keganasan rumah tangga.

Ini mencetuskan satu siri sinopsis yang ingin saya ketengahkan di sini.

Sebagai seorang kanak-kanak, saya sering mendengar pepatah orang-orang tua “Jangan masuk campur hal orang lain”.

Bagi mereka, menolak rasa ingin tahu kanak-kanak dengan memberitahu mereka supaya jangan jaga tepi kain orang adalah lebih mudah daripada melibatkan mereka dengan urusan orang lain.

Saya selalu merasa ada sesuatu yang tidak kena dengan nasihat sebegini. Meskipun kita mahu memastikan anak kita selamat dan terhindar daripada orang yang tidak dikenali, kita juga mahu mereka menjadi baik, berhati perut dan mempunyai perasaan ihsan.

Daripada memberitahu anak kita supaya tutup mata terhadap masalah orang lain, kita perlu mengajar mereka supaya buka mulut jika ternampak perbuatan salah laku sejak kecil.

Ini penting lebih-lebih lagi sekarang ini kerana saya lihat dan dengar kes keganasan rumah tangga. Semuanya berlaku di belakang pintu tertutup.

Dan yang paling menyayat hati saya ialah apabila ia melibatkan kanak-kanak dan anggota keluarga yang terdedah kepada bahaya tersebut dan tidak berupaya melindungi diri mereka sendiri.

PENDERAAN MENYAKITKAN

Malangnya, sesetengah kanak-kanak menjadi mangsa perbuatan orang yang sepatutnya memberi mereka kasih sa yang dan perlindungan – ibu bapa dan anggota keluarga mereka.

Keganasan yang dilakukan berupa penderaan secara fizikal, pengabaian atau penderaan seksual, yang bukan saja mengakibatkan kecederaan tetapi juga menjejas emosi dan/atau psikologi kanak-kanak.

Hasil penyelidikan menunjukkan bahawa kanak-kanak tersebut menampilkan kadar kognitif yang lebih tinggi dan keadaan psikologi dan emosi yang mencabar.

Dalam beberapa kes, kita melihat generasi keluarga yang membesar dengan penderaan. Dan lingkaran itu terus berputar.

Baru-baru ini, rakan-rakan saya berkongsi dengan saya cerita sedih seorang wanita bernama Lydia (bukan nama sebenar), ibu yang begitu menyayangi anak kecilnya.

Lydia yang menjadi mangsa penderaan suaminya, terpaksa melarikan diri ke rumah perlindungan bersama anaknya itu.

Mereka tinggal di sana selama beberapa bulan, di mana beliau mendapat pekerjaan yang stabil dengan bantuan rumah perlindungan berkenaan.

Anaknya juga menyertai program sokongan bagi menangani trauma yang dialami nya akibat terdedah kepada keganasan keluarga.

Meskipun pada permukaaanya keadaan mereka sudah mula menjanjikan harapan, namun kehidupan mereka jauh daripada sempurna.

Lydia telah memfailkan perceraian dan mendapatkan hak penjagaan anaknya, tetapi suaminya terus mengganggu mereka.

Bagi Lydia dan anaknya, bekas luka emosi mereka berterusan, lama selepas luka fi zikal telah terubat.

Masalah yang melanda Lydia mungkin sudah berlalu berbanding dengan ramai mangsa penderaan.

Namun terdapat beberapa mangsa kembali kepada pendera, kadang-kadang bersama anak mereka.

Ramai daripada kita tidak faham mengapa mangsa masih sanggup menjalin hubungan yang menyakitkan hati mereka.

Alasannya, saya dimaklumkan rakan khidmat sosial saya, banyak dan berbeza sebabnya.

Ada yang percaya bahawa pendera boleh berubah.

Ada yang melakukannya bagi memastikan hubungan anak dengan kedua ibu bapa tidak putus.

Ada yang merasa bahawa mereka telah melakukan sesuatu yang menyumbang kepada masalah penderaan. Ada yang tidak tahu pilihan lain.

Tetapi apa yang saya pelajari juga, ada sesuatu yang disebut “lingkaran keganasan”. Ia bermula dengan fasa pertama – di mana ketegangan mula muncul. Fasa kedua menyaksikan ledakan krisis. Fasa ketiga ada lah apa yang melemahkan kebanyakan mangsa – fasa berbulan madu. Ia adalah ketika pendera kononnya mahu bertaubat.

Pendera cuba memujuk rayu dan meminta maaf. Pendera memberi jaminan kepada mangsa bahawa apa yang terjadi hanyalah sekali dan tidak mungkin berulang. Mangsa berlembut, memaafkan dan cuba melupakannya. Tetapi ketegangan kembali semula.

Sebagai sebuah masyarakat, kita perlu akur bahawa tiada sesiapa yang seharusnya didera. Kejadian penuh tragik dan lingkaraan keganasan perlu dihentikan.

Di Singapura, Sistem Rangkaian Keganasan Keluarga Kebangsaan menarik ramai rakan kongsi masyarakat bagi menangani isu keganasan keluarga secara kolektif. Kami mempunyai undang-undang, peruntukan kaunseling, tempat perlindungan krisis dan Pusat Pakar Keganasan Keluarga berasaskan komuniti dan Pusat Pakar Perlindungan Kanak-kanak.

Polis bekerja rapat dengan kementerian saya bagi menangani isu ini, bersama rakan kongsi daripada badan kehakiman, penguatkuasaan undang-undang dan perkhidmatan sosial.

Kita – sebagai jiran, rakan sekerja, rakan dan keluarga, apa yang boleh kita lakukan? Adakah kita hanya berdiri dan berpeluk tubuh? Apakah selepas kita melihat tanda tetapi tetap mengabaikannya?

Bagaimanakah kita dapat mengekalkan hati nurani yang murni apabila kita melihat ke arah lain semata-mata kerana tidak mahu “masuk campur hal orang lain”?

Polis, pekerja sosial dan pendamping hanya boleh bertindak jika setiap daripada kita berwaspada dalam mengesan dan melaporkan perbuatan penderaan.

Kita semua boleh memainkan peranan, sebagai contoh hanya dengan mengetuk pintu jiran kita apabila kita melihat sesuatu yang tidak kena atau dengan mengetepikan masa kita untuk meringankan stres pihak pengasuh.

Langkah mudah ini mengingatkan semangat gotong-royong yang pernah wujud di Singapura. Marilah kita hidupkan semula semangat kampung ini yang boleh membantu mencegah masalah penderaan daripada te rus berleluasa.

Apabila “orang lain” adalah jiran kita, rakan sekerja, sahabat dan anggota keluarga, tidak ada alasan untuk kita tutup mata.

Walaupun “orang lain” adalah orang asing bagi kita, kita mesti melakukan perkara yang betul.

Dan kita sedar “perkara yang betul” adalah “masuk campur” kerana jika tidak “orang lain” mungkin mati.

Terdapat banyak “Lydia” dalam kalangan kita.

Setiap tahun, hampir 3,000 mangsa keganasan keluarga mendapatkan perintah perlindungan di Mahkamah Keadilan Keluarga. Mungkin lebih ramai lagi yang takut tampil bagi mendapatkan pertolongan.

Marilah kita membantu mangsa dan keluarga mereka bagi memecahkan lingkaran penderaan dan pengabaian mereka dan lakukannya lebih awal. Marilah kita bertindak, hulurkan tangan dan pecahkan kesunyian terhadap keganasan keluarga – hari ini.

Penulis Setiausaha Parlimen Kanan (Pembangunan Sosial dan Keluarga merangkap Pendidikan)

Profesor Madya Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

Source: Berita Harian, Singapore Press Holdings Limited.

https://www.beritaharian.sg/wacana/masyarakat-punya-peranan-tangani-isu-keganasan-keluarga

The community has a role to play in tackling issues of family violence

I recently attended a conference by Casa Raudha Women Home on domestic violence. This sparked off a series of synapses, which I’m sharing here.

As a child, I would often hear this age-old adage from my elders “Jangan masuk campur hal orang lain”.

For them, dismissing a child’s inquisitiveness by telling them not to be a busybody is easier than getting them involved in the complexities of other people’s business.

I have always felt that there was something troubling about this piece of advice. While we want to keep our children safe and away from strangers, we also want them to be kind, compassionate and empathetic. Instead of telling our children to turn a blind eye to other people’s problems, we should teach them to speak out if they see wrong being done from an early age.

This rings true even more crucially now, as I see and hear of cases of domestic violence. Most happen behind closed doors. And the ones that break my heart the most, are the ones that involve children and vulnerable family members who cannot fend for themselves.

VIOLENCE HURTS

Sadly, some children suffer at the hands of the people who are supposed to provide them with care and safety – their parents and family members. Such abuse comes in the form of physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse, which cause not only physical harm, but emotional and/or psychological harm to the children. Research has shown that such children exhibit higher rates of cognitive, psychological and emotional challenges.

In some cases, we see generations of families growing up with abuse. And the cycle perpetuates itself.

Recently, my colleagues shared with me the heart-breaking situation of a woman, Lydia*, a doting mother of a young child. Lydia had suffered violence at the hands of her husband and fled to a shelter with her young child. They stayed there for many months, during which she secured stable employment with the shelter’s help. Her child also attended the shelter’s support programme to cope with trauma – accumulated from long-term exposure to family violence.

While their situation is starting to look hopeful on the surface, their lives are far from mended. Lydia has filed for divorce and custody of her child, but her husband continues to harass them. For Lydia and her child, their emotional scars persist, long after the physical ones are no longer visible.

Yet Lydia may already seem enlightened, compared to many other victims of abuse. There are some who decide to return to their abuser, sometimes with children in tow. Many of us do not understand why victims stay on in a relationship that hurts them.

The reasons, I have learnt from my social service colleagues, are countless, and vary from relationship to relationship. Some believe that the abuser can change. Some do it to ensure that their children have contact with both parents. Some feel that they have done something to trigger the abuse. Some know no other options.

But what I have also learnt, is that there is something called a “cycle of violence”. It starts off with the first phase – where tension starts to build. The second phase sees the explosion – the crisis. The third phase is what misleads most victims – the honeymoon phase. It’s when the abuser appears to repent. The abuser cajoles, persuades and pleads for forgiveness. The abuser assures the victim that what transpired was a one-off episode, with no chance of a sequel unfolding. The victim relents, forgives and tries to forget. Until the tension starts to build again.

As a community, we must agree that no one deserves to be abused. That this tragic, vicious cycle of violence must stop.

In Singapore, our National Family Violence Networking System ropes in many community partners to address family violence issues collectively. We have robust laws, counselling provisions, crisis shelters and community-based Family Violence Specialist Centres and Child Protection Specialist Centres. The Police work closely with my Ministry to address this issue, alongside partners from the judiciary, law enforcement and social services.

For each one of us – as neighbours, co-workers, friends and family, what can we do? Do we simply stand by and do nothing? How can we see the signs and still ignore them? How can we maintain a clear conscience when we look the other way, because we don’t want to “masuk campur hal orang lain”?

Police, social workers and befrienders can only step in if each of us is vigilant in detecting and reporting suspected abuse. We can all play our part, for example simply by knocking on our neighbour’s door when we notice something amiss or by volunteering our time to relieve caregivers of their stress. These simple acts of kindness are reminiscent of the kampong spirit that Singapore once shared. Let us bring this spirit back. It can go a long way to prevent abuse.

When “orang lain” is our neighbour, co-worker, friend and family member, there really is no excuse for ignorance. Even if “orang lain” is a total stranger, we must do the right thing. And we know deep down that the “right thing” is to “masuk campur” if we have to. Because otherwise, “orang lain” may die.

There are many “Lydia”s in our midst. Each year, almost 3,000 family violence victims file for protection orders at the Family Justice Courts. There may be more who are afraid to seek help. Let us help these survivors and their families to break their cycles of abuse and neglect, and break them early. Let us step in, offer help and break the silence against family violence – today.

Writer Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Social and Family Development & Education)

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim

Mrs Laura Hwang at ASEAN Forum on Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment

Building resilience and harnessing innovation to support women’s economic empowerment

The following speech is from Singapore Government Representative for Women’s Rights on the ACWC, Mrs Laura Hwang’s opening address at the ASEAN Forum on Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment on 27 Aug 2018. The Forum is co-organised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, under the ambit of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).


I am happy to see many familiar faces. It is my honour to welcome all of you in the presence of Singapore’s first female President, Madam Halimah Yacob.

ASEAN’s Commitment

A key principle in the ASEAN Charter our commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. To articulate this, ASEAN has two bodies: the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights – AICHR, and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children – the ACWC.

These two bodies work closely to promote and protect the rights of the people of ASEAN, especially its women and children, whom we see as more vulnerable and needing more protection. Singapore’s contribution to this has included the joint organisation between AICHR and ACWC last year of a Workshop on the rights of children and the Forum today on the economic empowerment of women.

This Forum aims to bring together prominent women business leaders, young female entrepreneurs, and change-makers to share their experiences, discuss ways to empower more women in ASEAN and to inspire governments.

Building Resilience and Harnessing Innovation

ASEAN is a region of opportunity for its people. To ensure that we provide an enabling environment for all, ASEAN must collectively work towards sustainable change, and prepare us for a new future of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – the VUCA macro-economy which is rapidly taking over the globe.

Hence, this Forum which focuses on women’s economic empowerment is themed “Building Resilience and Harnessing Innovation”. It is opportune to discuss what we need to do to support the economic participation of women. Supporting women to fulfil their aspirations, both in family and career, can undoubtedly bring about progress not just economically, but as a society – to be more equitable and resilient.

Building Resilience

Building resilience is a shared responsibility of multiple parties including governments, the private sector, and importantly the individual. We need to use the talents and abilities of all, and many studies show very clearly that inclusion and diversity are important for greater outcomes.

Society, businesses and governments need to not only advocate that women’s economic participation brings tremendous benefits, but to cascade this down into actions that enable a culture of inclusion and diversity.

The global competition for talent is fierce, and ASEAN needs to ensure that we retain and attract the best. Practices that prevent talent from being part of nation building will only slow down our development.

Harnessing Innovation

We don’t need a crystal ball to look at the future and to see the paramount importance of technology. To effectively harness innovation, we must be able to generate innovative ideas, to keep pace and reap the benefits from new ways of doing business. We now shop, find information, organise and pay across digital platforms. It is critical to promote STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education for girls, as these are the relevant skills in the job markets of today and tomorrow.

With the rise of disruption and globalisation, many traditional jobs held by women are under threat by automation, AI and other technologies. Currently, women remain underrepresented in high growth sectors such as computer science, engineering and management. In Session 1, Empowering female employees at the workplace, we will hear solutions and ideas from speakers from socio-government, entrepreneurial and unionist sectors.

And we are seeing success by innovative women – for example, In Thailand, after noticing a high rate of road accidents due to drink driving, 2 young women started an app for inebriated partygoers to book a chauffeur service for a safe ride home. They have facilitated more than 100,000 rides in the past 4 years – you could say they avoided 100,000 possible accidents!

You will be hearing how one of our young woman leaders is bringing affordable insurance and mobile health services for low-income families, using mobile technology. And there are many examples in other ASEAN Member States too.

Conclusion

By 2030, which I hope all of us here will be around to see! ASEAN has the potential to be the world’s 4th largest economy. As we progress further along the road to being an economic community through the ASEAN Economic Community, we know that half the citizens of ASEAN are women. Their input and their efforts are critical in the successful development of ASEAN.

I look forward to hearing and learning from our speakers and moderators, and from the very distinguished floor. I thank them in advance for how they will be sharing their unique views and expertise and inspiring us.

My special thanks to our President, for gracing the occasion and being the greatest example to us all of women’s leadership. Having had the privilege of working with her during her term as Minister of State in the Ministry of Social and Family Development, her support for women’s empowerment is genuine and heartfelt. President Halimah, you are an inspiration for us all.

Thank you.  Have a wonderful forum.