Singapore has "come a long way" in terms of female participation in politics, and there is still room to grow when it comes to women taking up leadership positions here, said Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.
Speaking to reporters at an International Women's Day celebration at Marsiling Community Club yesterday, she noted Singapore's "tremendous progress" in terms of the percentage of women in Parliament.
"If you look (back) at the (early) 80s, we didn't have a single female Member of Parliament," said Madam Halimah, adding that it is difficult for her, as Speaker now, to visualise "a field of male parliamentarians" back then. "(Now) we have got over 20 per cent, which is higher than the international average... so that is pretty good."
Madam Halimah, 62, has been touted as a potential contender in the presidential election to be held this September.
It will be reserved for candidates from the Malay community, under broad constitutional changes passed last November that spell out how a presidential election will be reserved for a particular racial group that has not produced a president for five terms in a row.
If you look (back) at the (early) 80s, we didn't have a single female Member of Parliament. (Now) we have got over 20 per cent, which is higher than the international average... so that is pretty good.
SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT HALIMAH YACOB
Singapore has not seen a Malay president for 46 years since its first president Yusof Ishak, who died in office on Nov 23, 1970.
But when asked if she thinks that there would be potential for more female ministers and a female president in Singapore, Madam Halimah said it was a "tricky question" that she would not be able to answer.
"But certainly, I hope to see women growing in leadership positions in Singapore, because that then allows women to fully develop their capabilities and contribute.
"We are made up of half men and half women, so we must have both engines running at... the optimum speed," said Madam Halimah, who also launched a cookbook at the event yesterday. The Marsiling Cookbook, which contains more than 30 recipes from chefs and Marsiling residents, including Madam Halimah's recipe for low-fat sayur lodeh, raised $26,000 for the Marsiling Independent Mums project.
An initiative by the Marsiling Women's Executive Committee, the project started with a group of 20 single mothers in the ward last November. It aims to give single mothers short-term financial assistance, and help them with skills training and finding employment, said Ms Molly Too, chairman of the committee.
Madam Halimah, who is an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, also said Singaporean women have made strides, with many taking part in fields that are traditionally dominated by men, such as science courses in university. She called for employers and families to support women, particularly working mothers, and reiterated her support for introducing eldercare leave.