Fourteen outstanding women inducted to Hall of Fame

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The Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame welcomed 14 new honourees at a gala dinner and induction ceremony on Friday night (18 March). At the gala dinner, Mrs Mary Tan, Patron of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), presented each honouree with The Flame, a trophy that symbolizes the vitality of the women in the Hall of Fame and the torch of inspiration that is passed from one generation to another.

The Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF) was launched by SCWO in 2014 to recognise and celebrate the many contributions of women to Singapore’s development, and to share the stories of these outstanding women so as to inspire others, especially younger Singaporeans. In the first year 108 women were honoured, and in 2015 there were 11.

The 14 women comprise two Supreme Court judges, six sportswomen, two food personalities, a diplomat, an activist/advocate, a medical aid worker, and a community/social worker.

  1. MAY WONG - Pioneer community worker and tireless fund-raiser - Born 1899 Died 1989
  2. ALICE EDITH WILHELMINA PENNEFATHER - A pioneering and outstanding sportswoman - Born 1903 Died 1983
  3. TAN CHENG HIONG - Pioneer champion of women’s rights - Born 1904 Died 1999
  4. TAN YOON YIN - Singapore’s first lady of netball - Born 1929
  5. ELEANOR CLUNIES-ROSS - Pioneering athlete - Born 1934
  6. MARY BEATRICE KLASS - Pioneering athlete - Born 1935
  7. JANET JESUDASON - Pioneering athlete - Born 1936
  8. GLORIA BECK - Pioneering athlete - Born 1938 Died 2015
  9. JAYALEKSHMI MOHIDEEN - First female career diplomat - Born 1945
  10. ANG SWEE CHAI - Orthopaedic surgeon and medical aid worker extraordinaire - Born 1948
  11. LAI SIU CHIU - First woman on the Supreme Court Bench - Born 1948
  12. VIOLET OON - Singapore’s food ambassador - Born 1949
  13. AZIZA ALI - Pioneer restaurateur and promoter of Malay culture - Born 1950
  14. JUDITH PRAKASH - Key figure in Singapore’s growth as a global arbitration hub - Born 1951

One of the honourees, Dr Ang Swee Chai could not attend the induction ceremony because of Immigration & Checkpoint Authority (ICA)'s refusal to issue an assurance that her Singapore citizenship will not be revoked. (read more here)

Each year, a short-list of candidates for induction is drawn up by the Resource Panel, assisted by SCWO’s team of researchers. The Selection Panel, chaired by Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh, then decides on those to be inducted.

In his foreword in the 2016 SWHF commemorative booklet, Prof Koh notes that the Hall of Fame is already having the desired impact of inspiring others, especially the young.

At the end of 2015, an exhibition organised by SWHF and the National Museum (titled A

Salute to The Pioneering Women of Singapore) proved so popular that its scheduled run of five weeks was extended to 11 weeks. And students who attended SWHF talks and mini exhibitions at their schools spoke of how they were inspired to ‘step out of my comfort zone and do things to make a difference to others’, as one Secondary Two student put it.

Prof Koh added that in identifying the women to be inducted, the Resource and Selection Panels consider not just their achievements as individuals but also, where applicable, their contributions as team members. While the exemplary work and achievements of most of the honourees was in or for Singapore, some are honoured for having made a difference to lives and societies elsewhere.

“Singapore is a global city and it is right that our people are applying their talent, vision and passion as good global citizens to make this a better world,” Prof Koh said.

In his foreword, Michael Zink, Head of ASEAN and Citi Country Office, Singapore, said Citi was proud and honoured to be, for the third year running, the Presenting Sponsor of SWHF. The lives and stories of the women demonstrate that “with persistent focus, commitment and enthusiasm, dreams can indeed be transformed into reality”, he said.

Mr Zink added that as diversity and inclusion are prominent in the financial institution’s culture, Citi’s partnership with SCWO on the Hall of Fame gives it the opportunity to “align our diversity efforts and strengthen the impact of our strategy, programmes and performance”.

SCWO President Malathi Das in her foreword paid tribute to the honourees in a poem.

“Look in the mirror, And see what we see, A talented, magnificent and uplifting woman, Who has come so far, And has achieved so much,” she writes.

The stories of the women in the Hall of Fame can be found on the SWHF website (swhf.sg).

Also on the website are:

- Milestones, a timeline of the policies and laws affecting women in Singapore and of the achievements and contributions of individual women

- The Orchid Garden, a space where members of the public can pay tribute to the important women in their lives. Also featured here are the recipients of the Jamiyah Exemplary Mother Award and Great Women of Our Time Awards, and the tributes penned by visitors to the ‘A Salute to the Pioneering Women of Singapore’ exhibition held at the National Museum from Nov 2015 to January 2016.

The 2016 International Women’s Day gala dinner and SWHF Induction Ceremony will be held at the Tower Ballroom, Shangrila Hotel. Guests will include women parliamentarians, foreign diplomats, and senior civil servants, past SWHF inductees, and representatives of SCWO’s member organisations.