SINGAPORE - When Ms Siti Nurhajah was 18, she sacrificed her dream of becoming a nurse to support her family of six, who were on the verge of becoming homeless.
Now 26, she has graduated with a diploma in nursing and was one of 20 successful Malay/Muslim women honoured in a commemorative book launched on Saturday (March 6) ahead of International Women's Day on Monday.
Titled Unprecedented - To The Beat Of Her Own Drum, it was conceptualised and written by a team of 50 youth volunteers from the Mendaki Club over two years.
Ms Nadia Yeo, co-founder of the club's Young Women in Leadership Dialogue, said the book celebrates the lives of 20 young Malay/Muslim women who have achieved success in various forms.
From musicians to humanitarian activists and hawkers, they exemplified traits of resilience, courage and commitment, she added.
They were selected from an open call for nominations through social media.
President Halimah Yacob, who officiated the book's launch on Saturday, contributed to its foreword.
Speaking at the event, which was held at co-working space WeWork at Funan, Madam Halimah noted that a recurring issue that has surfaced from the series of Conversations on Singapore Women's Development was the need for society to shift away from the mindset that women must be the de facto caregiver at home.
She said: "Everyone can contribute in enabling the aspirations of our young women to take flight, whether by changing such biased perceptions, supporting them in their endeavours, or even sharing household responsibilities."
When Ms Siti was hospitalised at KKH for a week at the age of 14 to remove cysts in her ovaries, she was afraid. But the nurses there changed her life.
She said: "The nurses really went out of the way to care for me, and that was very memorable."
She would later pursue nursing at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East in 2013, though she withdrew later that year to start working and support her family.
Her father, who was the sole breadwinner of the family, had diabetes and hepatitis C and was too weak to continue working.
Knowing she had to step up as the oldest of four siblings, she stopped schooling to work in the food and beverage sector.
She told The Straits Times: "We had just moved into a place of our own after two years of staying in a shelter, so I wanted to make sure that we were able to pay the bills."
When her sister graduated from school and began working in 2017, Ms Siti then returned to ITE to continue her education, eventually emerging as its valedictorian in 2019.
She pursued a diploma in nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic, and will soon start working as a registered nurse at KKH.
She said: "I wanted to give back to KKH after my experience there so that I can inspire the younger nurses."
She hopes to return to ITE as a lecturer to continue sharing her story and inspire others.
Another woman featured in the book is Ms Nur Aziemah, 35, associate research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Political Terrorist at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
She monitors and analyses the extremist online content to understand extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
All proceeds from the book sales will be channelled to Casa Raudha, a charity which provides shelter for women and children who have been victims of domestic violence.
Members of the public can buy a book and pledge their support at giving.sg/campaigns/ywildpledgeabook.
Correction note: This article has been updated for clarity.