After her father died when she was five, her mother worked hard as a nurse to raise her and her siblings. So the little girl wanted to make her mother proud by doing well.
She would go on to pursue a career in law before becoming Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.
Yesterday, Ms Indranee Rajah, who is also Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for National Development, shared her growing-up experiences as part of the #ThisLittleGirlIsMe social media campaign.
The campaign, launched on Monday by the Singapore arm of charity Inspiring Girls International, encourages women to post photos of their younger selves with their personal tales to show girls that they, too, can achieve their dreams.
Said Ms Indranee: "Take each day one step at a time. And one day, you will get to where you want to be."
Other women who shared their stories include Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo, and Professor Lim Sun Sun, head of humanities at the arts and social sciences faculty of the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
Prof Lim recalled how she "read so voraciously that her parents parked her at the supermarket's book section while they grabbed the groceries".
Describing herself as a "little girl who asked too many questions", the communication and technology lecturer said she would have loved to see more female role models while she was growing up.
Ms Jacqueline Chua, president of Financial Women's Association of Singapore, who also shared her stories, said she once thought she was a "lost cause" as teachers did not understand her and she was brought up to think that being born a girl was a disadvantage.
Although she was academically challenged and socially awkward, she did not let that stop her from becoming a wealth management banker and an advocate for women in finance, she said.
Ms Chua, who is also chairman of Inspiring Girls Singapore, said in a Facebook post: "My advice to this little girl would be you are a hidden gem and don't give up!"