19 March 2018 – She was just 26 years old when, in December 1959, she was thrust into the role of First Lady of Singapore. The shy, soft-spoken housewife, whose formal education had stopped in primary school, spoke no English and there was no handbook about being the First Lady.
But Puan Noor Aishah, wife of Singapore’s first locally-born Head of State Yusof Ishak, more than rose to the challenge. In the 11 years that she was First Lady, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in 2017 at the launch of her biography, ‘she touched the lives of many with her quiet determination, humility and charm’.
Now in her eighties, Puan Noor Aishah will on Saturday 24 March be inducted to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF) at a gala dinner at Shangri-La Hotel. She will be presented with The Flame, the SWHF trophy, by President Halimah Yacob, who is patron of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. President Halimah was in the inaugural group of women inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2014.
President Halimah will also welcome 11 other women to the Hall of Fame. They are:
- Community workers Tan Teck Neo, Grace Yin, and Mozelle Nissim
- Businesswomen Anastasia Tjendri-Liew, Claire Chiang and Daisy Devan
- Lawyer Phyllis Tan
- Zoologist Yang Chang Man
- Biomedical scientist Miranda Yap
- Tour guide Geraldene Lowe-Ismail
- Sports club founder Zena Clarke Tessensohn
The SWHF was launched by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations in 2014 to recognise and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women in Singapore. A key aim is to share their stories so as to inspire others, especially young Singaporeans, to dare to dream and to chart their own path.
Professor Tommy Koh, who chairs the SWHF Selection Panel, said: “Sharing the stories of our outstanding women will help to give our youth role models of strong and successful women, and inspire them to live their lives fully, to develop their passions and to follow their dreams. All the 12 women being inducted this year have very inspiring stories, and we are delighted to have them join the 140 women already in the Hall of Fame.”
Asked for her reaction to being honoured, businesswoman Claire Chiang said: “An award is recognition. It motivates me to reflect on my next leap, about what I should do more that is different and new to empower women. This energises me.
“This may be the value of the Hall of Fame. Besides remembering the women achievers and feeling grateful to them for their contributions in building Singapore, the Hall of Fame fuels our imagination, and that of future generations, about strengthening this legacy.
“Achieving gender parity is about growing the number of achieving women to a size that makes our influence and opinions matter. This is a journey that has to be earned through our perseverance and collective commitment.”
Anastasia Tjendri-Liew said: “I feel very honoured to be recognised and would like to dedicate this to every woman who has struggled and sacrificed, and I thank everyone who has supported me through the years, and of course, the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations.
“I see this as a wonderful way to encourage and motivate women and to recognise women’s efforts and achievements across the different fields and industries. It serves as a wonderful reminder that women can achieve just as much and be as accomplished as men.”
The SWHF induction ceremony and gala dinner is held in March every year by the SCWO as part of the celebrations of International Women’s Day. Guests at the dinner will include women already in the Hall of Fame, women parliamentarians, foreign diplomats, senior civil servants and representatives of SCWO’s member organisations.