Our Journey, Our History

We list the milestones in the path of women in Singapore – the changes in policies and laws as well as the initiatives and achievements of individual women.

1824
AT THE START, MORE MEN THAN WOMEN

Singapore’s population is recorded as being just under 10,700, of whom about 3,000 are women. more »

1842
FIRST SCHOOL FOR GIRLS OPENS

The first girls’ school in Singapore and East Asia is started in a North Bridge Road shophouse. Founded by Maria Tarn Dyer, it is initially known as the Chinese Girls’ School.  After the Second World War, the name changes to St Margaret’s School. more »

1844
RAFFLES INSTITUTION ADMITS GIRLS

The all-male Raffles Institution starts a section for girls with five day-students and six boarders.... more »

1846
HAJJAH FATIMAH’S LEGACY

Construction of Hajjah Fatimah Mosque is completed. It is named after Hajjah Fatimah binte Sulaiman who provided the land and funds for the mosque and some homes around it for the poor. more »

1854
SECOND SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus opens in Victoria Street. Reverend Mother St Mathilde Raclot, founder of the school, soon also starts an orphanage and a home for abandoned babies. more »

1879
GIRLS GET A THIRD SCHOOL

Raffles Institution finds that the demand for girls to be schooled keeps growing. In 1879 Raffles Girls’ School is set up as a separate institution. more »

1887
FOURTH GIRLS’ SCHOOL

Australian missionary Sophia Blackmore establishes the Tamil Girls’ School in Short Street. As the school grows, it is renamed Methodist Girls’ School and in 1925 it moves to Mount Sophia. more »

1899
ANOTHER SCHOOL FOR GIRLS OPENS

Singapore Chinese Girls’ School opens on Hill Street, with seven Straits Chinese girls. It is funded by a small group of English-educated Straits Chinese men who believe girls should be educated. more »

1913
CLINIC FOR THE DISADVANTAGED

Charlotte Elizabeth Ferguson-Davie, a doctor and the wife of Singapore’s first Anglican bishop, founds the St Andrews Medical Mission and opens a dispensary in Bencoolen Street to meet the healthcare needs of the disadvantaged. more »

1917
GIRLS JUST WANT TO BE EDUCATED

Nanyang Girls’ High School is set up by a group of businessmen and intellectuals who belong to the United League of China and who are inspired by Sun Yat-Sen’s view that women should be educated in order to play a more active role in serving their country. more »

1920
FIRST SINGAPOREAN WOMAN DOCTOR

In June, Lee Choo Neo becomes the first Singaporean woman to register as a doctor. more »

1923
HOSPITAL FOR WOMEN & CHILDREN OPENS

Charlotte Elizabeth Ferguson-Davie opens St Andrews Mission Hospital for Women and Children, one of Singapore’s first maternity and paediatric centres. The hospital becomes one of the first institutions in Singapore to offer nursing courses. more »

1925
FIRST WOMAN BARRISTER SWORN IN

Teo Soon Kim is sworn in to the Singapore bar and becomes Singapore’s first woman barrister. more »

1925
MAGGIE ACES SENIOR CAMBRIDGE

Sixteen-year old Maggie Tan, later known as Maggie Lim, becomes the first girl to be admitted to the all-male Raffles Institution after earning a record six distinctions in the Senior Cambridge examinations. more »

1925
FIRST MOVE TO PROTECT MUI TSAIS

Facing pressure from the British public to address the problem of mui tsais (young bondmaids) in colonial Malaya, the Colonial Office in London enacted the Female Domestic Servants Law in Malaya. This sought to protect the moral and material interests of the ‘mui tsais’. more »

1930
BAN ON BROTHELS

The Women and Girls Protection Ordinance is passed by the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements. It outlaws brothels and related activities. There are an estimated 700 brothels in Singapore at this time. more »

1930
MAGGIE BEATS THE BOYS TO AWARD

Maggie Lim wins the Queen’s Scholarship, the first woman and the second Singaporean in the programme’s 45-year history to receive the prestigious award for tertiary study in Britain. more »

1931
CLUB FOR INDIAN LADIES OPENS

The first Indian ladies’ club, the Indian-Ceylonese Club (later called the Lotus Club, and today known as The Kamala Club) is established by Checha Davies. A keen sportswoman, she is the only Indian woman in Singapore to be seen in shorts on the tennis courts. more »

1932
WOMEN ARE NOT CHATTEL

The Mui Tsai Ordinance is introduced to the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements. The aim is to protect women from being regarded as chattel as well as to safeguard those already considered mui tsais by requiring them to be registered and ensuring that they are not mistreated by their employers. more »

1932
FIRST PEDIATRIC WARD OPENS

The Singapore General Hospital opens the first pediatric ward in Singapore and Dr Sarah Mary Josephine Winstedt is appointed to head it. A decade earlier she had joined the Colonial Medical Service and was posted to Malaya where she pioneered modern infant care. more »

1933
CHILD SLAVERY COMES TO AN END

The Mui Tsai Ordinance comes into force on January 1. The entry of new mui tsais to Malaya is banned and all existing mui tsais must be registered. Among those who are registered is Janet Lim, who would later write a best-selling book about her experiences as a mui tsai. more »

1943
WAR HEROINE IN THE MAKING

Elizabeth Choy Su-Mei is arrested by the Japanese during the Occupation. Accused of being a British sympathiser, she is detained for 193 days and repeatedly tortured, but she does not reveal the names of the British prisoners-of-war that she helped. more »

1947
PROTECTION FOR WOMEN & GIRLS

The Women’s and Girls’ Protection Section of the Social Welfare Department takes over the protection of women, girls and children. Their responsibility is to rescue and rehabilitate juvenile prostitutes and victims of abuse. more »

1947
PARTIAL SUFFRAGE FOR SINGAPORE

Singapore is granted universal suffrage by Britain on 18th July. But the right to stand for election and to vote only extends to British subjects aged 21 and above and of sound mind. Many women do not have the vote. more »

1947
CARE FOR MUSLIM WOMEN’S WELFARE

Che Zahara binte Noor Mohamed establishes Singapore’s first Muslim women’s welfare organisation, the Malay Women’s Welfare Association (MWWA). more »

1949
FAMILY PLANNING GETS STARTED

The Family Planning Association is set up with Constance Goh Kok Kee as its first chairperson. more »

1949
PHYLLIS ELECTED TO PUBLIC OFFICE

Phyllis Eu-Chia Cheng Li becomes the first woman elected to public office in Singapore during the Municipal Commission elections. more »

1950
FIRST WOMEN JOIN THE POLICE

Mary Quintal is one of the first 10 women to join the Singapore Police. They are also the first women in the civil service to be on the same pay scales as their male colleagues. more »

1951
TWO WOMEN IN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL

Elizabeth Choy is nominated to the Council by the Governor after her unsuccessful attempts to obtain an elected seat, while Vilasini Menon stood as an independent and successfully contested for a seat in the highest decision-making body in Singapore at that time. more »

1952
SINGAPORE COUNCIL OF WOMEN IS FORMED

The Singapore Council of Women (SCW) is formed in April. Shirin Fozdar, the Council’s General Secretary, begins her campaign for better legal protection for women, especially against polygamy. more »

1952
SINGAPORE’S FIRST FEMALE OLYMPIAN

Singapore sends its first female athlete, Tang Pui Wah, to the Olympics in Helsinki in July. She takes part in the 100m sprint and the 80m hurdles events. more »

1953
SCW CALLS FOR NEW LAWS

Singapore Council of Women (SCW) writes to the Governor of Singapore, urging him to introduce legislation to prevent lax marriage laws and enforce a situation where “any woman in this country may in future enjoy the same marital privileges and rights as are enjoyed by women in other British denominations”. more »

1953
CALL FOR MONOGAMY

SCW submits the proposed Monogamous Marriages Bill to various Legislative Assembly members, the Governor, and the Chinese, Muslim, and Hindu advisory boards. more »

1954
FIRST LOCAL HOSPITAL MATRON

Janet Lim is appointed as Matron of St Andrew’s Mission Hospital, making her Singapore’s first Asian hospital matron. more »

1955
DAISY IS 1ST LOCAL SENIOR ALMONER

Daisy Vaithilingam is appointed Senior Almoner, now known as Chief of Medical Social Workers, making her the first local in the role. She is in charge of medical social workers in all hospitals in Singapore. more »

1956
PAP FORMS WOMEN’S LEAGUE

The PAP Women’s League is formed with Chan Choy Siong at the helm. To mark International Women’s Day in March, the League organises four rallies across the island. The rallies attract more than 2,000 people in total. more »

1958
SYARIAH COURT STARTS ITS WORK

The Syariah Court is set up and procedures put in place to protect Muslim women from arbitrary divorce. Within a few years, the divorce rate among Muslims drops is halved, from 51% to 22%. more »

1958
SOLD FOR SILVER IS A BEST SELLER

Janet Lim’s Sold for Silver is published. It is the first autobiography in English by a Singaporean woman and becomes a best-seller. more »

1959
FIVE WOMEN WIN ASSEMBLY SEATS

Singapore holds its second Legislative Assembly general election in May. It is a significant election because there is, finally, under the new Constitution of Singapore, true universal suffrage. All women who are Singapore citizens can vote. Five women are elected to the Legislative Assembly - Che Sahora binte Ahmat, Ho Puay Choo, Fung Yin Ching, Chan Choy Siong, and Seow Peck Leng. more »

1960
SYARIAH COURT GETS 1ST COUNSELLOR

Khatijun Nissa Siraj becomes the first female social worker in the Syariah Court. She handles hundreds of cases in the first year, advising Muslim women of their rights under the new divorce laws. more »

1960
HEDWIG HEADS NATIONAL LIBRARY

Hedwig Anuar becomes the first Singaporean director of the National Library of Singapore. She remains in the position until her retirement in 1988. more »

1961
WOMEN’S CHARTER COMES INTO FORCE

In September, the Women’s Charter becomes law. It protects the rights of women and children in Singapore, outlaws polygamy for non-Muslims, and provides the legal basis for equality between husband and wife. All marriages have to be legally registered. Marriages entered into solely through customary Chinese rites are not legal. more »

1964
1ST ASIAN AT AUSTRALIAN BALLET

Dancer Goh Soo Khim becomes the first Asian to be admitted to the Australian Ballet School. She goes on to graduate top of her class. more »

1965
INDEPENDENCE DAY

Singapore leaves Malaysia and becomes an independent state on 9 August. more »

1965
TOO MANY: A BABY EVERY 11 MINUTES

The Health Ministry publishes a white paper outlining the Five-year Mass Family Planning Programme. At this time, on average, a baby is born in Singapore every 11 minutes. The total fertility rate stands at a whopping 4.70, putting a strain on Singapore’s limited resources. more »

1965
THE GOLDEN GIRL GETS GOING

In December, at the 3rd Southeast Asian Peninsula Games held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 11 year old ‘Golden Girl’ Patricia Chan Li-Yin kicks off her 10-year dominance of the regional swimming arena by winning gold in all her 8 events. more »

1965
FREE CARE FOR DESTITUTE ELDERLY

Former nurse and selfless social worker Teresa Hsu Chih, together with her sister, opens the Home for the Aged Sick to provide free nursing care for the elderly and destitute. more »

1966
FIRST FEMALE DISTRICT JUDGE

Jenny Lau Buong Bee is appointed Singapore’s first female district judge. more »

1968
TECH OR HOME ED: GIRLS CAN CHOOSE

In June, the Education Ministry sets up a Technical Education Department. Girls are given a choice between technical subjects and home economics. more »

1969
HELPING HAND FOR AGED SICK

Venerable Ho Yuen Hoe establishes the Man Fut Tong Nursing Home to take care of the aged sick and immigrants from China who have no relatives to turn to. more »

1970
TURNING WELFARE INTO INDEPENDENCE

Asian Women's Welfare Association (AWWA) is formed to help meet the needs of the elderly, the disabled, and families. Its aim is to empower its clients to lead dignified and independent lives. more »

1970
ANOTHER WAY TO CURB POPULATION

The Voluntary Sterilisation Act comes into force as another population control measure. Initially persons seeking sterilization need to get the approval of the Eugenics Board and must be the parent of three or more children. The Act will be revised in 1972 and again in 1974, with the conditions getting more and more relaxed. more »

1970
ABORTIONS ARE NOW LEGAL

The Abortion Act comes into force and makes abortions legal in Singapore. It is part of the efforts to control population growth, as well as a move to protect women’s reproductive health as there is a high incidence of backstreet abortions. more »

1971
A JUILLIARD FIRST FOR MARGARET

Margaret Leng Tan becomes the first woman to graduate with a Doctor of Musical Arts from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. more »

1972
CAREER ADVANCEMENT FOR WOMEN

The Singapore Business & Professional Women’s Association is formed to help working women in Singapore advance their careers and professions. more »

1972
PLEASE STOP AT TWO

The controversial ‘Stop at Two’ campaign is launched to discourage large families because of the financial strain that having children imposes on individuals. more »

1972
A GLOBAL FASHION BUSINESS IS BORN

Christina Ong opens Club 21, a multi-brand boutique store in Singapore. Over the years it expands into a global fashion business. more »

1973
1ST WOMAN DEAN OF SCIENCE

Botanist Gloria Lim is appointed the first female Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Singapore. more »

1973
PAT LEAVES A TRAIL OF PURE GOLD

At the 7th SEAP Games, held in Singapore, Patricia Chan Li-Yin wins gold in each of her six events, bringing her total gold medal tally over five consecutive Games to 39. Her record of winning gold in every event entered at the five Games is unmatched. more »

1973
RUTH WONG GETS THE IE GOING

In April, Ruth Wong Hie King becomes the founding director of the Institute of Education. more »

1974
SAWL AIMS TO SIMPLIFY THE LAW

The Singapore Association of Women Lawyers (SAWL) is formed. One aim is to simplify the law for the lay person. more »

1974
SWEE LEE IS A RUNAWAY SUCCESS

Sprinter Chee Swee Lee becomes, at the 7th Asian Games in Tehran in September, the first Singaporean woman to win an Asian Games gold medal in the track and field events. more »

1975
WHERE HAVE ALL THE BABIES GONE

Singapore’s total fertility rate, which has been steadily declining, falls below the replacement level of 2.1. In 1970 it was 3.07. more »

1977
1ST WOMAN VP AT BANK OF AMERICA

Theresa Foo is the first woman to be appointed a vice-president of Bank of America. more »

1977
ONE-STOP CENTRE FOR FAMILIES

The first Family Service Centre opens. Conceptualised by social worker Thung Syn Neo, it is a one-stop centre for the provision of services for families in need. By 2013, there are 44 Family Service Centres across Singapore. more »

1978
YOUNG JUNIE GETS TWO GOLDS

At the Asian Games in Bangkok, Junie Sng Poh Leng is the first female Singaporean swimmer and the youngest swimmer in Asiad’s history to win two gold medals at the same Games. more »

1979
SAF’S FIRST EVER WOMAN C.O.

Agnes Fong Sock Har becomes the first female commanding officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). more »

1979
BAMBOO GREEN IS BORN

Award-winning bilingual writer Li Lienfung starts writing ‘Bamboo Green’, a weekly column in the bilingual section of The Straits Times. The popular column runs from 1979 to 1984 and 1993 to 1998. more »

1979
SCHOOL FOR SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS

At the Asian Women’s Welfare Association, Leaena Tambyah starts a playgroup for children with multiple disabilities, which in time will become the AWWA School. more »

1980
AN UMBRELLA FOR WOMEN’S GROUPS

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) is formed as an umbrella body for women’s groups in Singapore. more »

1981
MOVE TO PROMOTE CANTONESE OPERA

Joanna Wong Quee Heng and her husband start the Chinese Theatre Circle to preserve and promote Cantonese opera. more »

1981
FIRST WOMAN PARTNER

Fang Ai Lian is appointed a partner of Ernst & Young (Singapore). This is the first time a woman achieves partnership status in a professional services firm in Singapore. more »

1983
GET MARRIED, GRADUATE WOMEN!

At the National Day Rally in August, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew identifies the failure of female university graduates to marry and bear children (attributed, in part, to the apparent preference of male graduates for less highly educated wives) as a serious social problem. Soon after this, a slew of policies and programmes to tackle the problem are introduced. more »

1984
WOMEN RETURN TO THE HOUSE

The ruling People’s Action Party field three women candidates in the General Election. All three - Dixie Tan, Aline Wong, Yu-Foo Yee Shoon - are elected and the Singapore Parliament’s 14-year dearth of women members finally ends. more »

1984
GOVERNMENT GETS INTO MATCH-MAKING

The Graduate Mothers Scheme is launched to encourage graduate mothers to have more children, and the Social Development Unit is set up to match-make university graduates. more »

1984
STELLA’S EMILY BECOMES A STAR

Stella Kon’s play Emily of Emerald Hill is performed for the first time. It will go on to become the most performed play in Singapore and Malaysia, and it will also be staged in Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and the US. more »

1985
CALL FOR SEX DISCRIMINATION LAW

Sociologist and parliamentarian Aline Wong calls for laws against sex discrimination. more »

1985
FIRST WORLD BOWLING CHAMPION

Adelene Wee becomes Singapore’s first Singaporean World Bowling Champion when she wins the Ladies' Masters Title at the World Games in London. more »

1985
FIRST WOMAN PHARMACY PROFESSOR

Lucy Wan is Singapore’s first local pharmacy graduate to be appointed Professor of Pharmacy at the National University of Singapore. more »

1985
AWARE TO SEEK GENDER EQUALITY

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) is formed with the aim of achieving gender equality in Singapore. It plans to use research to support its advocacy work. more »

1986
PLEASE HAVE AT LEAST THREE

A decade and a half after starting its ‘Stop at Two’ family planning campaign, Singapore launches a ‘Have Three or More: If you can afford it’ scheme. This is because the fast-falling total fertility rate has reached a record low of 1.43 more »

1986
FIRST WOMAN CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR

Tan Sau Fan becomes the first woman Professor of Chemistry appointed by the National University of Singapore. more »

1987
TZU PHENG WINS WRITERS AWARD

Academic and poet Anne Lee Tzu Pheng is the first Singapore woman to win the prestigious Southeast Asian Writers Award. more »

1989
PAP STARTS WOMEN’S WING

The People’s Action Party starts the Women’s Wing, replacing the former PAP Women’s League. It aims to promote the empowerment of women in the political, social and economic fields. more »

1989
HOSPICE CARE STARTS IN SINGAPORE

Cynthia Goh and a group of volunteers start The Hospice Care Association. They began their work in palliative care three years earlier at St Joseph’s Home. more »

1991
KK HOSPITAL IS FAMILY FRIENDLY

Jennifer Lee Gek Choo is appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kandang Kerbau (KK) Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She puts in place a family-friendly work environment and the hospital earns the Family Friendly Firm Award for three consecutive years. more »

1992
KANWALJIT IS 1ST WOMAN NMP

Orthopaedic surgeon Kanwaljit Soin becomes the first woman Nominated Member of Parliament. more »

1992
SUCHEN WINS 1ST LITERATURE PRIZE

Suchen Christine Lim is the first recipient of the Singapore Literature Prize (Fiction) for her novel Fistful of Colours. more »

1992
HONOUR FOR BEIJING OPERA STAR

Phan Wait Hong is awarded the Cultural Medallion for her contributions to the development of Beijing opera in Singapore. She was one of the first to teach Beijing Opera in Singapore. more »

1994
FIRST ASIAN WOMAN TO HEAD UNIFEM

Noeleen Heyzer is appointed Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). She is the first Asian woman to fill this post. more »

1995
SINGAPORE RATIFIES MOST OF CEDAW

Singapore ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but with reservations to certain Articles. more »

1995
NMP TABLES FAMILY VIOLENCE BILL

Nominated Member of Parliament Kanwaljit Soin introduces the Family Violence Bill. It seeks better laws to deal with domestic abuse. The bill is not passed, but the Women’s Charter is amended the following year and includes some of what she called for. more »

1995
FIRST HOME FOR DEMENTIA PATIENTS

Singapore’s first nursing home for dementia residents, Apex Harmony Lodge, opens. Retired gynaecologist Oon Chiew Seng, who led the effort to set it up, will be actively involved in its running until 2011. more »

1996
STEPS TO TACKLE FAMILY VIOLENCE

The National Family Violence Networking System is set up to address the problem of family violence in Singapore. This system connects government bodies with law enforcement agencies, social services agencies, hospitals and the Courts so as to better provide support and help for violence-stricken families in the community. more »

1996
SINGAPORE’S 1ST WOMAN ENVOY TO US

Chan Heng Chee is appointed Singapore’s ambassador to the United States, making her Singapore’s first female ambassador to the country as well as the first female ambassador to the US from East Asia. more »

1997
BETTER PROTECTION AGAINST DOMESTIC ABUSE

The Women’s Charter Amendment Bill came into force on 1st May to include provisions for the protection of victims of domestic violence and giving the police more power to arrest abusers. The amendment was a result of the efforts of various activist groups and NMP Dr Kanwaljit Soin. more »

1997
SOM STARTS MALAY DANCE COMPANY

Som Said establishes the first fully professional Malay dance company, Sri Warisan – Som Said Performing Arts Ltd. more »

1997
FIRST EVER TOY PIANO ALBUM

Margaret Leng Tan releases the first ever toy piano album, The Art of the Toy Piano. more »

1998
WOMEN DOCTORS UNITE

The Association of Women Doctors is set up to promote women’s rights in relation to health and career advancement in medical practice. more »

1999
UN WOMEN SETS UP IN SINGAPORE

The Singapore Committee for UN Women Singapore is established. It supports programmes that provide women and children with access to education, healthcare, economic independence and a life free of violence and abuse. more »

1999
FIRST WOMAN PERMANENT SECRETARY

Lim Soo Hoon becomes Singapore’s first female permanent secretary at the then Ministry of Community Development. more »

2000
GOVERNMENT SETS UP WOMEN’S DESK

The then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports sets up the Women’s Desk to act as the national focal point on gender policy matters and for international cooperation pertaining to women. The Women’s Desk is the Secretariat to the Inter-Ministry Committee on CEDAW which monitors Singapore’s implementation of the Convention. more »

2000
WOMEN CAN SPONSOR FOREIGN SPOUSES

A new law allows Singaporean women to sponsor their non-citizen husbands for citizenship. Prior to this, only Singaporean men were allowed to sponsor citizenship for their foreign wives. more »

2000
1ST WOMAN ARTILLERY C.O.

Lim Sok Bee becomes the first female commanding officer of an artillery battalion in Singapore. more »

2001
BABY-MAKING PACKAGE UNVEILED

Singapore launches its first Marriage and Parenthood Package which aims to reduce the financial burden of having a child in Singapore and to encourage Singaporeans to consider having more children. more »

2001
FIRST FEMALE COMMERCIAL PILOT

After qualifying as a pilot and serving in the Republic of Singapore Air Force for two decades, Anastasia Gan leaves the air force and becomes Singapore’s first female commercial pilot. more »

2001
FIRST WOMAN MAYOR

Yu-Foo Yee Shoon is the first woman to be appointed as a Mayor in Singapore. She leads the South West Community Development Council. more »

2001
OLIVIA LUM’S HYFLUX IS LISTED

Water treatment company Hyflux, founded by Olivia Lum, is listed on Singapore’s stock exchange in January. more »

2002
SINGAPORE SAYS YES TO EQUAL PAY

In May, Singapore ratifies the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Equal Remuneration and so affirms its commitment to equal pay for equal work. more »

2002
HONOUR FOR WOMAN MATHEMATICIAN

Lam Lay Yong is the first Asian and first woman to be awarded the Kenneth O May Prize, the highest award in the field of history of mathematics. more »

2003
MEDICAL STUDENT QUOTA LIFTED

The one-third quota on the intake of female medical students at the National University of Singapore is lifted. It was introduced in 1979 because, it was claimed, it was a waste to train too many women as doctors because they would stop working when they married and had children. more »

2003
FIRST FEMALE FIGHTER PILOT

Khoo Teh Lynn became Singapore’s first female fighter pilot. more »

2004
TEMASEK GETS A WOMAN AT THE HELM

Ho Ching is appointed Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Holdings, an investment company owned by the Singapore government. more »

2004
RIGHT TO CITIZENSHIP EQUALISED

In April, Singapore’s Constitution is amended to allow overseas-born children to acquire Singapore citizenship by descent from their Singaporean mothers. Prior to this, only Singaporean men were allowed to pass on their citizenship to their children. more »

2004
PLEASE HAVE MORE BABIES

The second Marriage and Parenthood Package is introduced. Among other things, working mothers get more tax reliefs with each child. more »

2004
SINGAPORE SWIMMER AT PARALYMPICS

Theresa Goh Rui Si is the first Singaporean swimmer to take part in the Paralympics, at the Athens Games. more »

2004
URA ALSO GETS A WOMAN AT THE HELM

Cheong Koon Hean becomes the first woman to be appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. more »

2005
EQUAL MEDICAL BENEFITS

Medical benefits for civil servants are equalized. Female officers can now, like their male colleagues, claim medical benefits for their spouses and unmarried children below the age of 18 years. more »

2005
ANAMAH WINS CEDAW SEAT

Anamah Tan wins a seat on the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She is the first Singaporean woman to be in the CEDAW Committee. more »

2005
KRANJI FARMERS UNITE UNDER IVY

Ivy Singh-Lim becomes the first president of the Kranji Countryside Association. more »

2005
JOS GETS HER 40 SEA GAMES GOLDS

Swimmer Joscelin Yeo sets a new record by winning a total of 40 gold medals at the SEA Games. more »

2005
SAF GETS ITS 1ST WOMAN COLONEL

Karen Tan is promoted to colonel in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), making her Singapore’s first female colonel. more »

2005
SINGAPORE ARTIST EXHIBITS AT UN

In May, Chng Seok Tin, a visually impaired artist, becomes the first Singaporean to showcase her works at the UN Secretariat in New York. more »

2006
HONOUR FOR ENVIRONMENT CHAMPION

Geh Min is conferred the inaugural President’s Award for the Environment. more »

2007
FIRST WOMAN TO HEAD ESCAP

Noeleen Heyzer is the first woman to be appointed Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), a regional development arm of the United Nations. more »

2007
WOMAN TAKES THE HELM AT SINGTEL

Chua Sock Koong becomes Chief Executive Officer of SingTel, one of Asia’s largest telecommunications companies. more »

2007
WINGS FOR THE OLDER WOMEN

Aiming to promote active ageing for women, WINGS plans to run workshops and other programmes to help women take responsibility for their happiness, health and security. more »

2008
MORE CARROTS TO INDUCE BABIES

The third Marriage and Parenthood Package offers improved inducements to Singaporeans to have babies. more »

2008
MUSLIM MARRIAGE AGE RAISED

The minimum age for Muslim marriages is raised to 18, bringing the Administration of Muslim Law Act in line with the Women’s Charter (1961). more »

2008
WOMEN PADDLERS WIN SILVER MEDAL

In August, the women’s table tennis team (Li Jia Wei, Feng Tian Wei and Wang Yuegu) wins a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics. It is only the second time that Singapore has won an Olympic medal. more »

2008
LAURENTIA WINS TWO BRONZES

At the Beijing Paralympics in September, rider Laurentia Tan wins a bronze medal, Singapore’s first ever Paralympics medal. She will win another bronze in a later event. They are Asia’s first equestrian medals at the Paralympics. At the London Paralympics in 2012, she will win a silver and a bronze. more »

2008
SINGAPORE’S 1ST GOLD AT PARALYMPICS

Yip Pin Xiu wins a gold medal in the 50m backstroke at the Beijing Paralympics. It is Singapore’s first gold medal at the Olympics level of competition. more »

2008
KUDOS FOR SINGAPORE RESEARCHER

Jackie Yi-Ru Ying is one of only eight women recognised in the list of “100 Engineers of the Modern Era” compiled by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. more »

2009
FINALLY, A WOMAN CABINET MINISTER

In April, Lim Hwee Hua becomes the first woman in Singapore to be appointed a Cabinet minister. more »

2009
SOPHIA SKIS TO SOUTH POLE

Sophia Pang becomes the first Singaporean woman to ski from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole. more »

2009
TASKFORCE TO TACKLE TRAFFICKING

The Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons is set up to deal with the problem. Its job is to put into place comprehensive and coordinated strategies to effectively combat human trafficking. more »

2009
JENNIE CHUA HEADS SICC

Jennie Chua is made Chairman of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce. She is the first woman to head the organisation in its 172- year history. more »

2009
LONG-SERVING VOLUNTEERS HONOURED

Ann Elizabeth Wee and Indranee Elizabeth Nadisen are the recipients of the inaugural Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Awards by the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. Ann Elizabeth Wee is recognised for volunteering on the Juvenile Court’s advisory panel from 1969 to 2009 and Indranee Elizabeth Nadisen for her service as a foster mother to 43 children from 1976 to 2008. more »

2010
FIRST WOMAN HEAD FOR HDB

Cheong Koon Hean is the first woman to be appointed CEO of the Housing Development Board. more »

2010
BIRTH RATE HITS RECORD LOW

Singapore's Total Fertility Rate hits 1.16, way below the replacement level of 2.1. more »

2011
TWEAKS TO WOMEN’S CHARTER

The latest amendments to the Women’s Charter are passed in January. These amendments include provisions to better prepare at-risk couples for marriage, mitigate the impact of divorces, and strengthen the enforcement of maintenance orders. more »

2011
VERY FEW WOMEN ON SINGAPORE BOARDS

The first annual Singapore Board Diversity Report is released. It is a joint initiative of the NUS Business School and BoardAgender. The first annual report finds that only 6.9% of Singapore’s board directors are women. more »

2011
SINGAPORE ACCEPTS MORE OF CEDAW

Singapore partially lifts its reservation to Articles 2 and 16 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (UNCEDAW) following the fourth Periodic Report to the UN CEDAW. more »

2011
WOMEN’S DESK GETS A NEW NAME

The Women’s Desk in the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports is renamed the Office for Women’s Development. This is in line with the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women’s (CEDAW) recommendation. more »

2011
BOARDAGENDER LAUNCHED

SCWO launches BoardAgender, an initiative to raise awareness of the merits of gender balanced business and the promotion of women to leadership positions, especially in the board room. more »

2011
ARCHAIC LAW DELETED

An archaic law, Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act, that makes it possible to discredit an alleged sexual assault victim through her sexual history is deleted. more »

2011
HELP FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS

In November, AWARE launches the Sexual Assault Befrienders Service, the first support service in Singapore for survivors of sexual assault. more »

2011
HELP FOR DIVORCED WOMEN

In September, SCWO launches Maintenance Support Central, a one-stop centre that provides advice and assistance to divorced or separated women who have problems in the enforcement of maintenance orders. more »

2012
RIGHTS OF DISABLED RECOGNISED

Singapore ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. more »

2012
MORE MEDALS FOR LAURENTIA

At the London Olympics, equestrian Laurentia Tan becomes Singapore’s most bemedalled Paralympian when she adds a silver and a bronze medal to the two bronzes she won at the Beijing Games. more »

2013
FIRST WOMAN IN POLICE TOP RANKS

Zuraidah Abdullah is the first woman to be promoted to the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police. more »

2013
FOREIGN MAIDS MUST HAVE REST DAY

A new law requires foreign domestic workers to have at least one rest day every week. more »

2013
FIRST WOMAN SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT

Halimah Yacob becomes Singapore’s first woman Speaker of Parliament. more »

2013
AT LAST, PATERNITY LEAVE

A $2 billion Marriage and Parenthood Package is announced. It includes the introduction of one week of paternity leave and one week of parental leave to be shared by husband and wife. more »

2014
FINALLY, AN ANTI-HARASSMENT LAW

The Protection from Harassment Act comes into effect in November, and stalking, cyber bullying and workplace harassment become illegal. more »

2014
AND AN ANTI-TRAFFICKING LAW TOO

With a clear definition of trafficking in persons, the new law aims to prevent the practice of trafficking. Critics say it does not sufficiently protect victims. more »

2014
CENTRE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS

AWARE replaces its Sexual Assault Befrienders Service with the Sexual Assault Care Centre, where victims can drop in and get free and immediate advice and holistic support. more »

2014
WOMEN ON BOARDS – LITTLE PROGRESS

The latest Singapore Board Diversity Report shows little change in the proportion of women on the boards of listed companies - just 8.3%, marginally improved from the 7.9% seen in 2012. more »

2015
A MINISTRY TO CALL HER OWN!

Finally, a woman Cabinet minister is given her own ministry to run. Grace Fu, the only woman in the Cabinet, becomes Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. And she is also named Leader of the House, the first woman to hold that position in Parliament. more »

2015
FIRST FEMALE CHANCELLOR

Dr Aline Wong is named Chancellor of UniSIM, making her Singapore’s first female university chancellor. more »

2015
FIRST FEMALE GENERAL

The Singapore Armed Forces gets its first female general when Gan Siow Huang is one of seven Colonels promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General/Rear-Admiral (1-star). more »

2015
Finally, a more equal way to fly

Singapore‘s national carrier, Singapore Airlines, takes in two women cadet pilots. It is possibly the last major airline in the world to hire women pilots. more »

2015
Even more support for CEDAW

Singapore declares its unreserved commitment to Article 11 (paragraph 1) of CEDAW, which calls for gender equality in employment. The government says it is lifting its reservation because changing policies now mean servicewomen can have fulfilling careers in the military. more »

2016
Maintenance for some men

Changes to the Women’s Charter allow for husbands and ex-husbands who are incapacitated to claim spousal maintenance. Other changes include requiring couples with minor children to attend a parenting programme before they can file for divorce, and couples where one party is under 21 to attend a marriage preparation course. more »

2016
First woman judge for top court

Judith Prakash becomes the first woman to be appointed permanent judge of the Singapore Court of Appeal. An expert in commercial law, she was in 1995 the second woman to join the Supreme Court bench. more »

2016
Swimmers shine at Rio Paralympics

Yip Pin Xiu wins two gold medals at the Rio Paralympics and Theresa Goh, Singapore’s Paralympics swimming pioneer, wins a bronze. At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Pin Xiu won Singapore’s first Olympic-level gold medal. more »

2016
More equal support for parents

Fathers will now get two weeks of state-paid paternity leave, and unwed mothers will, like wed mothers, get 16 weeks of maternity leave instead of just eight weeks. Shared parental leave goes up from one to four weeks. more »

2017
MORE PATERNITY LEAVE FOR FATHERS

Up from one week of compulsory paternity leave, fathers are now entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave. more »

2017
AND NOW WE HAVE TWO!

Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo is made a full Minister, joining Grace Fu in the 21-strong Cabinet. That's two women and 19 men in the Cabinet. more »

2017
FIRST FEMALE HEAD OF STATE

Four years after becoming the first woman Speaker of Parliament, Halimah Yacob makes history again when she is sworn in as Singapore's 8th President more »

2018
WOMEN ON BOARDS - STILL SCARCE

Women now fill 10.3% of the seats on listed companies' boards. This is better than the 6.9% in 2011, but still a long way from the target of 20% by 2020 more »

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