Gender roles, expectations need to change to better support mothers: Sim Ann

Senior Minister of State Sim Ann noted that a woman was often expected to be a multi-tasker if she wanted to be successful. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - While women in Singapore have made good progress over the last few decades, mindsets about the roles and expectations of women and men in a family need to change in order to better support mothers here, Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Foreign Affairs, said on Saturday.

She was speaking at a virtual event organised by Jamiyah Singapore to gather views and suggestions on how to uplift mothers.

"For instance, it is very common for us to attend women's activities organised by organisations that advocate on behalf of women, and you will have a keynote speech by a very inspiring woman, and during the Q&A, she will be asked, how do you do it all?" said Ms Sim.

"This is something we've all experienced, we've all observed, and... men don't ask each other this question," she added.

Ms Sim noted that a woman was often expected to be a multitasker if she wanted to be successful.

"In many ways, I think, we as women also embrace multitasking, but clearly it is very difficult to do equally well in all of these realms, and I think this is something that we as women agonise over," she said.

Ms Sim acknowledged that there could be no perfect solution to this issue, but noted that educating the next generation to have a "slightly different approach" to gender roles may help.

About 100 participants from government agencies, social service agencies and members of the public attended the event organised by Jamiyah, also known as the Muslim Missionary Society of Singapore.

The theme was: Being Mothers: The Challenges, The Way Forward. The aim was to identify the issues confronting mothers and the reasons for the "insufficient recognition of motherhood", said Jamiyah Singapore.

During the session, many participants cited the challenges they faced as a mother, including expensive infant care and a culture of expecting mothers to shoulder the responsibilities of caring for their children and the elderly.

They also called for the Government to introduce policies to support non-working mothers.

More flexible work arrangements would also benefit mothers, as well as specific support schemes to help mothers with children from different age groups.

Moderator of Jamiyah Singapore's virtual event Rita Zahara (right) speaking to (clockwise from far left) Senior Minister of State Sim Ann; Jamiyah senior vice-president H. M. Saleem; Jamiyah's women's department chair Aisah Osman; and Jamiyah's Exemplary Mother Award judging panel chair Claire Chiang. PHOTO: JAMIYAH SINGAPORE

The feedback gathered from the session will be collated by Jamiyah Singapore and submitted to the Government, said its president Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar.

This is part of a national review launched last September on issues affecting women, with the ultimate aim of bringing about a cultural and mindset change on values such as gender equality and respect for women.

To gather feedback for the review, a series of dialogues have been organised. Recommendations will be made in the second half of the year.

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