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Halimah is a great role model
Published on: Sunday, October 01, 2017

ON Sept 14, Halimah Yacob was sworn in as the eighth President of Singapore, the first woman and second Muslim to hold this nation’s highest office.

Elected unopposed as President, Halimah, 63, comes from humble beginnings. Born in a shophouse, she grew up in a very poor family. Her Singaporean Indian-Muslim watchman father died when she was eight.

Halimah recalls having to share communal toilets and waking up very early to help her widowed mother sell nasi padang from a pushcart.

At school, she drank tap water instead of buying syrup, saving the few cents to buy pencils and books.

She had only one worn-out school uniform which she wore through the week, washed on the weekend and reused the next week.

Halimah attended the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School and Tanjong Katong Girls’ School before going on to the University of Singapore on a Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura scholarship.

She graduated with first-class honours in law in 1978, was called to the Singapore Bar and later completed a Masters in Law degree at the National University of Singapore.

After graduation, Halimah joined the Singapore National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and was variously director of the women’s development secretariat and its legal services before becoming NTUC deputy secretary-general and, later, director of the Singapore Institute of Labour Studies.

She was the first Singaporean to be elected to the governing body of the United Nations International Labor Organisation (ILO).

Courted by Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), Halimah, after much thought, entered politics and since 2001 has been an elected member of parliament and held various ministerial posts until she was appointed the first woman Speaker of Parliament four years ago.

Halimah has served in numerous national organisations, public boards and the PAP’s Central Executive Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body.

More than anything, Halimah, who lives in a Housing Development Board flat with her family, is known for her “common touch” grassroots, practical approach, patience as a listener and problem-solver, keen intellect and ability to articulate clearly and firmly her thoughts and ideas.

In recognition of her vast and numerous contributions, Halimah was conferred the Berita Harian/ McDonald’s Achiever of the Year Award in 2001, Her World Woman of the Year Award in 2003 and the AWARE Heroine Award 2011, and was inducted into the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations’ Hall of Fame in 2014.

An outstanding woman, wife and mother of five, Halimah is a great role model for everyone to emulate.


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