SINGAPORE - A $300,000 seed fund to boost women's development programmes will kick off by supporting those that advocate or address employment and health issues for one year.
The Seeds of Change Fund will run for three years, with $100,000 set aside for this year. Women's organisations will have six months to apply for funding to pilot or scale up their projects in those two areas.
Details of the government fund, first announced in Parliament earlier this month (March), were disclosed at its launch on Saturday (March 23) by the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO), which will be administering it.
Besides launching the fund, President Halimah Yacob also praised the eight new inductees into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Saturday.
She noted women in Singapore have been breaking boundaries in male-dominated industries such as science, technology and the uniformed services.
"Yet there is still much more that can be done to support women in reaching their full potential... I look forward to this seed fund further enabling positive changes for women," said President Halimah, a member of the Hall of Fame since 2014.
The SCWO reaches out to more than 500,000 women across more than 50 member organisations.
The latest entrants into the Hall of Fame are: the late principal of Nanyang Girls' School, Madam Liew Yuen Sien; radio broadcaster Zahrah Za'ba; Brigadier-General Gan Siow Huang, award-winning author Tham Yew Chin, sprinter Glory Barnabas, long-distance runner K. Jayamani, director of the Criminal Investigation Department Florence Chua and educator Evelyn Norris, who died in 2014.
Dr June Goh, president of the SCWO, said in her speech that in addition to funding, organisations that require it can get guidance from the NTUC Women and Family Unit and People's Association's Women's Integration Network.
Successful fund applicants will receive up to $20,000 or 90 per cent of the allowable project deficit, whichever is lower, on a reimbursement basis. Projects of a larger scale and greater impact however may be considered for higher funding support.
For the first year, the fund is open only to the SCWO's more than 50 member organisations, which reach out to some 500,000 women.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim said the areas of women's health and employment are important to look at.
Juggling work and family can come at the expense of health, while "pathways for women to go back to work and opportunities for women to do better in employment" should also be provided, he said.
This year's induction ceremony at The St Regis hotel, organised by the SCWO to mark International Women's Day, will bring the total number of women honoured for their contributions to 160.
Mrs Barnabas, who was part of the "golden generation" of track and field athletes that won numerous medals for Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s, told The Straits Times she was shocked to receive such recognition decades later.
Among the most memorable moments of her career was the photo finish that took judges half an hour of discussions before declaringher the 200m champion at the 1973 South-east Asian Peninsular Games, held here.
She remained the only Singaporean woman to win gold in the event for 42 years, until sprinter Shanti Pereira repeated the feat with a new national record at the 2015 SEA Games, also on home soil.
"I kept telling her 'you must do it, the whole country is cheering you on'. When she won I ran to her and congratulated her", said Mrs Barnabas, 77.
Back in the day as a female athlete from a small country competing in a category that drew less interest than team sports, there was little fanfare, said the retired schoolteacher.
"We had to train on grass and cinder tracks, there were no sponsorships so we had to buy our own spike shoes. I think the athletes today are much more blessed than us, which I am glad for," she said.