SINGAPORE - With the Covid-19 pandemic having exposed weaknesses in the current societal system, it is time for leaders to take action and cooperate on innovative and inclusive solutions, said President Halimah Yacob on Friday (Nov 19).
"Let us use our voices to represent the unrepresented, and to make people hear the unheard and see the invisible," she urged an international forum for women's development. "Let us transform this crisis into an opportunity to build a more equitable and inclusive world together."
Madam Halimah was speaking virtually at the Women's Forum for the Economy and Society, an international platform to amplify the concerns of women and come up with policy solutions to common challenges.
Issues such as climate change, women's health and business featured prominently at this year's edition.
Post-pandemic recovery was also a hot topic, with participants sharing ideas on how leadership can become more inclusive and barriers to entrepreneurship removed.
President Halimah noted that Covid-19 is threatening to reverse positive trends in women's development, with numerous studies showing that women around the world were made more vulnerable over the past 20 months.
This includes having to face increased gender-based violence, with girls getting limited access to education. Many also had to shoulder an even larger share of the already-unequal caregiving and housework burden, affecting their work opportunities.
"Whether it was the economic fallout or mental toll, Covid-19 has disproportionately affected women globally," Madam Halimah noted.
She also shared Singapore's experience with working to understand the needs and aspirations of local women.
For instance, the country held 160 national conversations on women's development last year, involving nearly 6,000 people of both genders. Five themes emerged from the conversations: having equal workplace opportunities, better support for caregivers, stronger protection for women, more support for vulnerable women, and the need for a broad push to overcome stereotypes about gender roles.
This feedback will be consolidated into a White Paper to be tabled in Parliament early next year, Madam Halimah said.
Such work will ensure that laws and policies evolve with changing times, she said, adding that 2021 has been designated the Year of Celebrating SG Women.
Singapore also convened an Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony to develop initiatives and resources to help all workers better manage their family responsibilities while making progress in their careers.
Added the President: "As we discuss specific policies and programmes that will improve the lives of women, we also have to consider how we may strengthen the ethos of fairness and justice in our society, where men and women partner each other as equals, progress together and pursue their aspirations freely, and where we take care of the vulnerable among us."