A woman PM? Not likely, says panel
SINGAPORE: Despite the modern and dynamic image of Singapore, the idea of a woman authority figure leading the country may still be unacceptable to Singaporeans.
- Why is it unacceptable? There is a difference between unacceptable and impossible. Is the writer saying that its impossible due to the political climate in Singapore?
For example, Nanyang Technological University Professorial Fellow Koh Tai Ann said — at a forum on Wednesday discussing whether Singapore was "ready for a Hillary Clinton" — the espousing of traditional Asian values has contributed to a patriarchal culture. Even women, said Prof Koh, might think of authority figures as male. "I think we are more likely to see a non-Chinese PM first than a woman PM."
-Yes, I agree that we will definitely see a non-chinese PM first instead of a woman PM. However that to me still does not explains why women PM is impossible or what the first paragraph had said, unacceptable.
Panellist and MediaCorp editorial director P N Balji felt that the political system in Singapore did not allow women to rise to the top. "The head of the household is still the man," he said. "In Singapore, everything is directed and dictated by politics, so if that's the situation politically, then I don't think (a woman PM) will happen."
-But women are also contributing more to the economy now and many are holding onto higher management positions. Why is it that a female PM is still impossible or even unacceptable despite knowing that women can do as well as men? What is wrong with our political arena? Was it our education system?
At the forum, organised by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), former Nominated Member of Parliament Braema Mathi credited Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) and Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim as an example of a woman who has taken on the challenge of entering politics.
"It's difficult to lead an opposition party in Singapore," she said, and for a woman to do so and also take on the duties of a NCMP was something that "didn't come too often for Singapore".
-Yes, I definitely take my hats off to Miss Sylvia Lim and agree that heading an opposition party is not easy and this is especially so in Singapore.
Other women politicians cited by participants include former Senior Minister of State for Education Aline Wong and Dr Seet Ai Mee, who became the first woman office holder in 1988 as the Minister of State for Community Development and Education.
Still, one audience member asked why it was that while women held leadership positions across many sectors in Singapore, politics appears to be one field where women have yet to find such acceptance — there has never been a woman Cabinet Minister and women make up just 19 per cent of the 94-member House.
Women appeared to be unwilling to come out and claim a place for themselves in politics, said writer and former Aware president Dana Lam, a panellist. "How many women are willing to go for it and take up the challenge … the will doesn't seem to be strong enough," she said.
Ms Mathi, however, argued that the issue of inspiring people to enter politics was a gender-neutral question and not a women-specific issue. To take part in politics, one had to join a political party or form one and it was equally challenging to motivate either sex to do so, she said.
The forum kicked off Aware's The ThinkBox series, where a dialogue session will be held every other month to discuss issues of gender equality and understanding.
-Which is why in my election speech for Youth Wing Executive Council, I hope to see more women coming forward to find out more about politics. This is our country, the place you want to have your family in, the place that you want to call home.
Therefore, come on and make things right if you think that they are currently wrong! Take the first step, be curious, take part, don't think that you cannot do much. You could be the one that is going to make the change!
And if our third world neighbours can have women leaders, why can't us?Read this too: Are we ready for a Hillary Clinton in Singapore?
And the women who had made history in politics: International Women's Day Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.