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Building a fairer and inclusive society, where we uplift, protect, and reflect the interests of women through how we live, play, and consume

Speech by Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry, at the Motion on Singapore Women's Development on 5 April 2022

  1. Mr Speaker, today, in this House, we witness a historic milestone in the making of a fairer and more inclusive Singapore. 
  2. As a nation, we will stride decisively ahead to realise greater equality between women and men. This is an important move to advance Singapore women’s development to higher levels. Although much has been achieved since the 1961 Women’s Charter, there’s more to be done. For instance, women today still take the lion’s share of caregiving duties, and many members have talked about during their speeches.  And some of the common products we use daily are made based on men’s requirements, without addressing the needs of women users. But this is changing, and will continue to evolve with the plans put forth by the White Paper.
  3. The White Paper reflects the manifold voices and collective aspirations of Singaporeans, both women and men alike. We hope the Paper’s 25 Action Plans will not only improve the lives of Singapore women, but as a whole, advance our society.


    Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development 

  4. Since the start of the Conversations in September 2020, I’ve had the chance to speak with Singaporeans of different ages and from all walks of life - from youths and working professionals, caregivers and educators, to corporate and business leaders, as well as our unionists. 
  5. Among the diverse views of nearly 6,000 participants of the Conversations, the one strong, common wish was: 
    a) For Singapore to build a fairer and more inclusive society, where men and women partner each other as equals, and pursue their aspirations freely and to the fullest. 
  6. To this end, let me share how three key action plans in the White Paper will uplift, protect and reflect the interests of Singapore women: 
    a) First, we will uplift caregivers, many of whom are women, by working closely with the community to lighten their load; 

    b) Second, we will ensure the protection of women in sports;  

    c) Third, we will develop national standards for products, services, procedures to better reflect the needs of women.


    Uplifting Caregivers with Community-based Peer Support Networks 

  7. Today, while women have made headway in terms of greater equality at work and in society, a disproportionate gap persists when it comes to caregiving. Women are still the ones holding the fort in caregiving and shouldering the heavier load. Although there is growing recognition of the need to balance this dis-equilibrium, it takes time to change long-held gender role stereotypes. Meanwhile, we must do all we can to support caregivers and women who carry out the tough work of caregiving.
  8. In the course of our Conversations in the past one and a half years, many participants had suggested tapping on the “kampung spirit” to better support our caregivers. For instance, creating a community buddy system, where caregivers can check in with each other and offer emotional support. 
  9. Let me elaborate on how we will enhance support for caregivers. We will partner the community to push out three key initiatives to uplift and support caregivers: 

    a) Firstly, community-based peer support networks. From next month onwards, PA, NCSS, and SG Cares Volunteer Centres will work with Caregiver Alliance Limited to link caregivers of persons with mental health conditions together to form networks of mutual support. This will help reinforce ground support for this group of caregivers who are especially vulnerable to burn-out. 

    i) Volunteers who wish to be part of this effort can go to the Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) training programme to have a better understanding of the kind of mental health challenges that caregivers face. 
     
    b) Second, we will boost help for caregivers of persons with disabilities. Through the Alliance for Action (AfA) on Caregivers of Persons with Disabilities, NCSS and SG Enable will collaborate with community partners to create a buddy programme that pairs experienced caregivers with new ones. 

    i) For example, the mother of a five-year old boy with autism, Madam Feng, tells us that she has benefitted from the valuable experience, advice and tips of other parents of children with special needs. They taught Madam Feng how to use simple occupational therapy exercises to help her child.

    c) Third, we will co-create new solutions to cater to the needs of caregivers so that they can be better supported in their caregiving journey. NCSS and Montfort Care are leading the Caregiver Community Lab project. It brings together caregivers, residents, and community partners to ideate and co-create solutions.  

    i) The project was first piloted in Radin Mas, and will now be expanded to Tanjong Pagar. Besides synergising the efforts in the two estates, this initiative seeks to better understand the barriers that our caregivers face in accessing support services, and take steps to address the obstacles.  

    Sir, caregiving is a tough and often long journey that can take a toll on one’s mental and physical health. Although my caregiving journey for my late father twelve years ago can be considered a short one compared to others, I know how strenuous and stressful it can be. Because each day, while my late father was in the ICU, and it was a total period of ten weeks, we oscillated between hope and despair, as we kept watch over him twenty-four hours a day, over the ten weeks period. 
  10. Many caregivers go through the rollercoaster emotions on the road of caregiving. Having a network of support from fellow caregivers and care services will strengthen their resilience greatly. With greater respect and partnership in caregiving, men, as well as women can contribute towards this important role which cannot afford to be neglected, else our society and families may suffer. The Government will spare no effort to boost and bolster new structures of support, and create new solutions to meet the needs of our caregivers. And with greater community support, we hope no caregiver will walk the journey alone. 


    Safe Sporting Environment for Women to Excel 

  11. Just as how we are empowering and equipping caregivers, we are enabling women to have the freedom and security to excel in sports by providing them safe sporting environments.
  12. During the Conversations, participants had expressed their desire for clear guidelines and measures to deter harassment and misconduct in the sporting arena. 
  13. Since then, the Safe Sport Commission has, over a nine-month consultative process, developed a Safe Sport Unified Code to enhance the protection of women in sports. This exercise involved key stakeholders like sportswomen, psychologists and non-profit organisations.

    a) First, the Code has set out a common reference point and understanding of what constitutes misconduct, abuse and harassment in sport.    

    b) Second, the Safe Sport Commission has established a central case management service to provide a channel for reporting incidents of misconduct.

    i) In addition, there is a network of counsellors and befrienders to provide psychosocial support for affected individuals. 

    c) Third, we will be establishing a Disciplinary Panel to hear and review allegations of misconduct under the Unified Code. The panel will decide on the appropriate penalties and sanctions to be imposed on alleged perpetrators.

    d) Fourth, we will continue to educate the sporting community and public on the Safe Sport Unified Code. The online learning portal, ‘SportSG-ED’ has specific modules for coaches and athletes to learn about their roles and responsibilities in sport.
  14. Last but not least, the Safe Sport Programme is testament to our zero-tolerance approach towards any misconduct that threatens the safety of our sporting environment.
  15. Sir, every woman athlete deserves to freely play, practise, and compete in a respectful and safe environment. By upholding the standards of the Unified Code, we can keep our sporting environment healthy and positive for all athletes, especially women. 


    Standards that address the needs of women 

  16. Apart from setting respectful standards of behaviour in sports, we are also developing and upholding  ‘gender-responsive standards’ in our society. This means setting standards for products, services and procedures that consider and cater to the needs of both genders, including those of women. 

    a) Let me give you an example. In the past two years, we had to use masks. Some of us had to use PPEs, certainly, our healthcare workers. Personal protective equipment such as helmets, gloves and safety goggles used in worksites etc need to also cater to the sizes and shapes of women for better fit and protection, instead of uniformly designed based on the requirements of males.  
  17. To this end, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Standards Council have recently developed a new Gender Strategy. It will be implemented across all committees under the Singapore Standards Council, such as biomedical and health, building and construction, and quality and safety. 
  18. Our efforts are aligned with the vision of the International Organisation for Standardisation and their ‘Gender Action Plan’. 
  19. Apart from developing gender-responsive standards, the Gender Strategy also seeks to increase women representation in the development of standards, and raise awareness of their contributions.  
  20. So I would like to use this platform to encourage and urge women with relevant industry experience to contribute their views and expertise to this important work of national standardisation. The ESG website has more details on how the public  can participate with their feedback.
  21. We hope that in the near future, the products, services and procedures in Singapore will be increasingly gender-responsive. As addressing the  unique needs of women become more of a norm rather than an exception, our society will be one where men and women are recognised and treated as equal partners. 


    Conclusion 

  22. Mr Speaker, Sir, on our journey to build a fairer and more inclusive society, it’s vital to have mutual respect and partnership between both sexes. Taking care of each other, giving every person a fair shot at success, and ensuring that there is equal protection, for men and women alike. These are fundamental values that will help us forge a Singapore where men and women stand as equals, and where we each have a chance to realise our dreams and aspirations. 
  23. With this, Mr Speaker Sir, I support the Motion. Thank you.  

Last updated on 06 April 2022