PHOTOGRAPH: Her World
Every year, the title of Her World Woman of the Year is awarded to an accomplished woman who serves as an inspiration and role model to other Singapore women. This year, Dr Sudha Nair, 58, executive director of Promoting Alternatives to Family Violence (PAVE), was its recipient.
Sudha founded PAVE, Singapore’s first family violence specialist centre in 1999. Her goal was to provide support for vulnerable victims of domestic abuse and their families. Besides her work at PAVE, she is also an assistant professor at the Department of Social Work at National University of Singapore.
The Her World Young Woman Achiever award, which recognises the potential of an outstanding young woman to excel in her chosen field, was presented to Jenny Tay, 30, managing director of Direct Funeral Services (DFS).
At her father’s company, Jenny introduced many innovations which have since been adopted across the local death industry, such as providing clients with grief counselling, and implementing a night watch service so mourning families do not have to stay overnight at the wake venue.
In 2015, she established the Direct Life Foundation, which aims to improve the quality of lives of people through education, activities and charitable efforts. She also published a book about issues people should consider in order to prepare for death.
Here are four things that we can learn from these two amazing women.
1 A sense of humour gets you through tough times
As a social worker, Sudha often comes across heartbreaking cases of domestic abuse and poverty. In order to cope with the emotional toll, she requires a good dose of humour once in a while. “If not, you'll be the most miserable person ever,” she says.
Life isn’t a cakewalk for any of us. It can be hard to find a reason to laugh during stressful or difficult times, but looking out for the funny side of every situation can help you cope with adversity.
2 Persistence is key
“I've been in social services long enough to know that if you hammer hard enough, someday somebody will hear you,” says Sudha.
It pays to be a little thick-skinned at times. Don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it, and pursue it until you get it. If you push hard for what you believe in, you will be able to convince others to rally behind you. You might have to tirelessly ‘hammer’ at the doors of every opportunity that arises, but as long as you don’t give up on the thing that you’re passionate about, one of those doors will open.
3 Dare to shake things up
When Jenny first joined her father’s funeral service business, there was ample room for improvement.
“There was no such thing as career progression or a conducive working environment,” she says. She decided it was time for a revamp. Now, every staff is entitled to medical insurance and overseas training courses and to top it off, the office is equipped with a plush pantry.
Be bold and dare to try new things at work. When you are a junior staff member, you might think that it isn’t your place to suggest ideas. Conversely, because you are new, you probably can offer a fresh perspective to those who’ve been around for a longer time. You’ll never know, you might just start a revolution in your industry, just as she did.
4 Defy expectations
The funeral service industry is male-dominated and Jenny had her fair share of gender discrimination, especially at the start of her career.
Instead of feeling disheartened, she worked hard to prove them wrong. “People think that to survive in my industry, you have to be manlier, but I don't think so. Why can’t you be a woman and do well?”
Don’t let others define what you are capable of. Believe in yourself and press on to achieve your goals, even when others doubt you.