Women in Singapore have made great strides and have excelled in subjects traditionally dominated by men, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said yesterday at an international summit of female parliamentary leaders.
Last year, seven in 10 health sciences graduates in Singapore, and over half the graduates in the fields of natural, physical and mathematical science, were women. Women occupy 24 out of 101 seats in Parliament, and almost 80 per cent of those at the prime working ages of 25 to 54 are in the workforce.
Madam Halimah cited these figures while addressing the theme of tolerance at the summit in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking about Singapore's experience, she said: "I would like to suggest that we cannot just 'govern' tolerance; we have to 'build' tolerance. In Singapore, we have not left this to chance."
The Government has been committed to building a multiracial society, and worked on three fronts to build tolerance: having legislative safeguards like recent amendments to the elected presidency; implementing policies such as the Ethnic Integration Policy in public housing to prevent the formation of enclaves; and initiating community programmes to foster strong ties between the different groups.
On recent changes to the elected presidency, which will see elections reserved for a particular racial group if no one from the group has been president for five consecutive terms, Madam Halimah said it sends a clear signal the presidency must be "accessible to all races".
This is important because of the unifying role the president plays, she said. "People of all races should have the opportunity to achieve their highest aspirations, including being the president of Singapore."
She also commended the United Arab Emirates on its efforts to promote tolerance, noting the creation of the post of Minister of State for Tolerance, now held by a woman, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi.
Madam Halimah also congratulated UAE Federal National Council president Amal Al Qubaisi on being elected the first female Speaker in the Arab world.