Call for more effort to get women into politics

But understanding of S'pore context needed as few people will step forward, says minister

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that openness, multiculturalism and a belief in self-determination have defined the nation's journey "from Singapore to Singaporeans". PHOTO: ST FILE

More can be done to encourage women to enter politics, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday afternoon.

But this can only be accomplished with an understanding of Singapore's context, where people are less likely to volunteer for political office, she said.

"If you watch American Idol, everyone says they will be the next American Idol. That's not quite how we do it in Singapore," Mrs Teo said.

"In our society, it tends to be that people are invited to be part of the political process, and people don't quite put themselves out there... If our men are not likely to put themselves forward, then our women are even less likely to do so."

She added that a "concerted effort" has to be made to notice the women who are doing well in different areas of society, and ask them to consider joining the political arena.

Mrs Teo, who chairs the People's Action Party (PAP) Women's Wing, was speaking on the sidelines of the group's International Women's Day celebrations.

Several other political office-holders were present, including National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

Ms Fu was the previous chairman of the PAP Women's Wing, and is currently the organising secretary of the group's central executive committee.

Ms Fu and Mrs Teo are two of the three female full ministers, the largest number in Cabinet to date. The third is Ms Indranee Rajah, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Addressing some 250 women activists, Mrs Teo said the values of openness, multiculturalism and a belief in self-determination have defined the nation's progress.

Many women embody these values, which make up the "unique DNA of Singaporeans", she added.

"And we have a duty to pass these values on so that future generations will know what it is that makes us tick, and what it is that will keep Singapore going."

For instance, women embrace openness and multiculturalism, breaking down barriers and building bridges in their families, communities and workplaces, she said.

"But what inspires me most is the determination that we often see in women. Adversity is not our enemy."

Instead, it often brings out "our tenacity, our unwillingness to accept defeat, and our willingness to try... until we succeed".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 10, 2019, with the headline Call for more effort to get women into politics. Subscribe