Published: 24 September 2022
Dr Seetha Subbiah,
President of Girl Guides Singapore,
Mrs Koh-Teh Yi Wen,
Chief Commissioner of Girl Guides Singapore,
Parents, School Leaders,
Commissioners, Guiders and Award Recipients,
Celebrating Achievements, Continuing the Journey
1. It is my pleasure to join you today in celebrating the collective successes of our Girl Guides, Young Adults, Guiders and partners of Girl Guides Singapore, or GGS for short.
2. The theme of this year’s awards ceremony is “Celebrating Achievements, Continuing the Journey”. It reflects how the GGS continues to build on its rich 100-year history to fulfil its mission of providing opportunities for girls and young women to develop and hone their strengths and practical skills.
3. Earlier this year, I had spoken about the importance of empowering women and supporting women so that they can realise their potential freely and fully, during the debate in Parliament on the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development.
The White Paper sets out the vision and roadmap towards greater gender equality in Singapore.
4. The mission and work of the GGS is important in achieving that vision. The Guiding movement builds a strong foundation for curious and courageous girls to mature into confident and courageous, caring women. Girl Guides provide girls with the opportunity for self-training in development of character, in the realisation of responsible citizenship and promotion of service to the community The many generations of Guides who have gone on to make significant contributions, whether at home, at work or in the community, are a testament to that.
5. We must continue to guide the Guiding movement forward towards this vision. I would like to speak about three strengths of the Guides today and how that gives you a strong foundation to meet new and evolving challenges.
To Be Prepared
6. First, the Girl Guides motto to “Be Prepared”. Being prepared is not just about what you know, or what you can do. It is also a mindset of being willing to learn and adapt even if your plans change during the course of the journey. The COVID-19 pandemic for example has disrupted our lives in many ways, and challenged us to find new ways of doing things.
7. In that light, I wish to commend the Guiders and GGS staff who have reinvented ways to run Guides programmes during the pandemic. For example, this year’s GGS Virtual International Camp was delivered in a hybrid format for the very first time. Girl Guides from across the world gathered online for discussions and workshops, and gathered in smaller groups to participate in outdoor activities in person. Our Girl Guides also showed resilience in finding new ways to complete their badges, online and offline.
8. Another dimension of ‘being prepared’ is to be aware of challenges and taking active steps to equip and upskill oneself to be able to take on new challenges. Today, I know we are all very excited to be launching the partnership between GGS and the ASEAN Foundation on the ASEAN Cybersecurity Skilling Programme. The digital domain presents both new and exciting opportunities for everyone, and our women and girls can play critical roles in this exciting area. Early exposure to STEM, digital skills and cybersecurity can help our young women gain access to opportunities in this exciting and dynamic digital space. At the same time, our women and girls must also ‘be prepared’ to encounter misinformation, disinformation and other sorts of online harms, and take active steps to become informed and discerning users of digital technology.
To Step Outside
9. The next step I would like to talk about is our ability to ‘step outside’. Much of the analysis and discussion during the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development focused on the need for mindset shifts to enable full and fair opportunities for our girls. For instance, many spoke about concerns that stereotypes could have on women’s ability to be the best that we can be – at work, at home, in the community - and in specific areas and industries like STEM, were mentioned. When we recognise that there are stereotypes that can lead to obstacles that could impede our young girls and their thinking about their ability to perform in these areas, we should look at how we can change these misconceived perceptions, and look at how we can help our girls find opportunities for themselves in these industries. We should not let these stereotypes exclude girls from the process, and not stop them from embracing education and career opportunities in STEM. We have confidence that the partnership between GGS and the ASEAN Foundation on the ASEAN Cybersecurity Skilling Programme will provide an excellent opportunity for our girls and women to explore and further their interest in digital skills. Next, I would also like to talk about the importance of stepping out of your comfort zones and staying ahead of evolving challenges.
(a) The challenges of the future require us to inculcate values and character building in our young, and we have to focus on academics. This is also being emphasised by the Ministry of Education and there are various initiatives to work with parents and the larger community to drive home this message.
(b) In an evolving world, with great uncertainty, there is a need for an internal moral compass and a sense of agency to do what is right and what is needed, for oneself and for others. And to me, that is why the Girl Guides movement is such a meaningful one. It brings many lessons outside of the classroom context and provides a space for our girls and young women to put their values into action.
10. Take the Girl Guides badges for example. They not only teach girls practical skills, like kayaking or first aid. Many of these badges – such as the Citizenship, Civil Defence, or Anti-Drug Abuse badges – also prepare you to be active and responsible citizens. The Ministry of Home Affairs is very grateful to the Girl Guides for embarking on these training, and I know we are working together on other initiatives as well.
To Give Thanks, and Give Back
11. Third, I would like to talk about our remembrance of the importance of giving thanks and giving back. I am heartened to hear that some Guiders in the audience today have served for decades. It is this desire to give back and nurture the next generation that has enabled the Guiding movement to thrive, and it is this same spirit that will steer it forward.
12. I would like to highlight two such examples of girls and young women who have exemplified the best of the Guiding movement.
(a) The first is Amirah Iman Binte Firdaus, a Girl Guide from Bedok South Secondary School. She is one of this year’s recipients of the Baden-Powell Award, which is the highest award that a Girl Guide can receive from the Chief Commissioner. She is the first Guide from her school to receive this award. Amirah is a role model to other Guides and her peers in school. As Company Leader of the Guide Unit, Amirah works alongside Patrol Leaders to ensure that CCA sessions are engaging and run smoothly. She began her Baden-Powell Award journey in July last year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, her practical test had to be conducted virtually, unlike the case for earlier cohorts of Guides. She had to think outside of the box to plan various activities over Zoom, and find ways to encourage her peers to participate actively. Amirah gamely took on the challenge and delivered a smooth and engaging two-hour programme, which she will share more about with us later.
(b) Another example is Jashna Sunil Aswani, who will be receiving the Clover Award today. The Clover Award is given to Guiders or Young Adults who have demonstrated outstanding service to GGS. Jashna has been serving as a Young Adult since 2014. Outside of GGS, Jashna has actively participated in dialogues, and sought opportunities to work with other community leaders and activists to build a more gender inclusive society. Last year, she represented GGS at the IPS Women’s Conference and also facilitated some of the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development organised by the Ministry for Social and Family Development. I hope that you will be inspired to follow in Jashna’s footsteps to actively shape the society that you want to see.
13. The awards that we are giving out today not only recognise those who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service. They also celebrate the many teachers, volunteers and parents who have given their time and effort to the Guiding movement.
14. Thank you all for working together to nurture a generation of empowered young women who can change the world for the better.
15. Congratulations to all, once again.
16. Thank you.