Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) president Malathi Das (far left), Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob (centre) presenting Lieutenant-Colonel Koh Chai Hong with a trophy. Image: Lim Yaohui for The Straits Times
To commemorate International Women’s Day, 11 women who have made outstanding contributions to society will be added to the SCWO’s Singapore Women’s Hall Of Fame.
Here’s a sneak peek at four of these ladies.
Koh Chai Hong
Claim to fame: She’s a trailblazer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
She made Singapore military history in 1999, when she and another female Major, were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. But that’s not her only feat. In 1979, Chai Hong also became the first woman to qualify as a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) pilot. While three other women subsequently joined her as the first generation of female RSAF pilots, she was the only one to complete the advanced pilot training phase on a jet aircraft. In addition, she was the first woman to be admitted to the SAF’s Command and Staff Course, the highest level of formal military training, in 1997. In the following year, Chai Hong became the first woman Commanding Officer of the Standards Squadron in Flying Training School.
Claim to fame: She’s known as the “mother of Singapore’s civil society” thanks to her fearless efforts in raising awareness about issues like sexism, racism and domestic violence.
Age is no barrier to this plucky woman, who got involved in activism, after the death of her husband, at the age of 42. She joined women’s rights group AWARE when it was launched in 1986, and lead the group in confronting “taboo” topics like domestic violence by lobbying for legal protection. Over the last 30 years, Constance has led women’s organisations, co-founded civil society groups, been a columnist in several national publications, spoken at countless forums, and contributed to and co-edited several books. In 2014, she was the prime mover behind the Singapore Advocacy Awards, which aims to recognise outstanding civil society organisations and individuals.
Janet Yee Keng Luan
Claim to fame: She’s a pioneer social worker who tirelessly advocates for children’s rights. Notably, she fought for the Singapore citizenship of abandoned babies.
Janet started her career with the Social Welfare Department in 1955 and rose to become the Deputy Director of Social Welfare in 1983. She spearheaded the launch of Singapore’s first parenting education programme in 1985 and took on the position of Deputy Director of Family Services in 1986, where she oversaw 11 welfare institutions.
Claim to fame: She champions the rights of foreign workers.
While some choose to spend their retirement loot on holidays and investments, Bridget chose to start The Human Organisation for Migration Economies (HOME). The charity runs a 24-hour helpline, a shelter for sex workers and foreign domestic workers, and a legal clinic. Additionally, it offers vocational training programmes, health screening services and conducts research about the plight of foreign workers here. Since its inception in 2004, HOME has helped more than 50,000 migrant workers and victims of human trafficking.
Head on to www.swhf.sg to find out more about the other inspiring women.