02 Mar 2019

Celebrating 70 Years of Women in Policing - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs

1. Commissioner of Police, friends and colleagues, including our counterparts from Hong Kong. Good morning. It is a great honour for me to be here.

 

2. 70 years is a long time, so it is meaningful to look back and celebrate the achievements of our women in policing. 
   

3. It happens that this is our Bicentennial Year. When we look back at Singapore’s history over the last 200 years, it is clear that women contributed as much as men to building up modern Singapore:

 

a. Take Mdm Hajjah Fatimah, for example. A tradeswoman and philanthropist who came to Singapore in the 1800s, Mdm Hajjah built houses for the poor and donated money and land to build a mosque for her community.

 

b. Another example is Hedwig Anuar. Just eight years after starting her career as a librarian in 1952, Mdm Anuar became the first Singaporean to be appointed as the Director of the National Library.Her leadership laid solid foundations for the modern library system that Singaporeans now enjoy and benefited generations of avid readers. So, we visit the library, we enjoy the services, but we probably didn’t know that all of these came about because of one woman. She started it.

 

c. Then, there is Mdm Gloria Lim, an expert on fungi, who became the first woman to be named Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Singapore, and later on as the first Foundation Director at the National Institute of Education when it was set up in 1991. So, Gloria Lim is the person who built up the NIE that trained generations of our educators, who in turn helped to bring up the next generation of Singaporeans.

 

4. What about women in policing? In addition to the many names that Florence has shared with us, the history of women in policing is quite interesting. As it turns out, the first women to begin police training in Singapore did so in 1949. We know that by now. The pioneering group had just 10 women. Including a woman by the name of Mary Quintal. Mary excelled in a field traditionally dominated by men, and as Florence reminded us, what possessed these 10 women to have the guts to step out of their comfort zone, and to believe that they can contribute something to society. Much more than themselves, they can do something about justice in Singapore, that they can help maintain law and order in our fledging, at that time not even a nation, we didn’t even have a government in 1949. But these 10 women had it in them. Without Mary Quintal and the other colleagues of hers, who formed that magnificent 10 you could say, and the other trailblazers that came after them, we might not today have the privilege of a woman heading our CID today.

 

5. This is a fitting occasion to pay tribute to past and present generations of women police officers like Mary, Jessica, Lois, and all the other names who were mentioned, who dedicated themselves to keeping Singapore safe and secure.

 

Journey of Female Police Officers in Singapore

6. In the early days, women officers were assigned primarily to supporting functions. They were operators for 999 calls, traffic controllers, and took on specialised roles where a female presence was required.

 

7. Over the years, our women officers have made remarkable progress.

 

a. In 1980, the first all-female riot and crowd control Task Force was established. Riot and crowd control are essential, when you have a situation or incident.

 

b. In 1981, five women made history by becoming our first female Investigation Officers.

 

c. By 1984, we had seen the first batch of female graduates joining the SPF as Senior officers.

 

8. Time and again, our women officers proved themselves to be more than competent and effective in their work. Some notable role models of course include:

 

a. Ng Guat Ting, who became the first female to lead a Land Division in 1999, 20 years ago.

 

b. Zuraidah Abdullah, who was appointed the first female Senior Assistant Commissioner in 2013. And today, if you go to Changi, and everything goes smoothly at Changi, that’s because Zuraidah and her team are keeping watch.

 

c. Sng May Yen, who was the first female commander to lead a SPF peacekeeping contingent to the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor in 2007;

 

d. And of course, not forgetting Florence Chua, who was appointed the first female Deputy Commissioner and concurrent Director CID last year. I am happy to share with you that Florence will be inducted to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame later this month. She is not going to be the first amongst our women police officers to be in the Hall of Fame. She will join 152 other exemplary women, including Zuraidah who was inducted in 2014.

 

9. Today, women officers undergo the same training and are deployed alongside their male counterparts in every Police unit except in the Gurkha Contingent. And we do not expect any otherwise, no one thinks twice about that today.

 

10. Beyond policing, some of our women officers went on to assume key positions in external organisations and continue to contribute to the community in their own ways.

 

11. For example, Zuraidah is currently serving her third term as a Board member of the National Library Board, and also joined the Agency for Integrated Care as a Board member last year.

 

12. All these inspiring stories about women, will be shared as part of the Bicentennial commemoration and I think on the occasion of our 70 Years of Women in Policing, we must equally share the stories of our outstanding trailblazers and the Police force amongst the women, to inspire future generations of women police officers.

 

Looking to the future

13. We now have close to 1800 women officers serving in SPF today, this is a far cry from the 10 pioneers in 1949.

 

14. In truth, it is not easy for women officers to manage career and family. I have seen it first-hand. Your work often requires sacrifices; such as weekends with loved ones that you cannot be part of or key events at home that you missed because you’re on duty. But we know Singaporeans can count on you because of your dedication, and we know you will do us proud.

 

15. More importantly, I want you to know that we want you to succeed. You deserve to, given the extraordinary commitment needed in a policing career.

 

16. Remember always that you are not alone in this journey. The Police Women’s Committee, or PWC in short, chaired by Florence, has been advocating for all of you.

 

17. Through various activities, the PWC has laid the foundation to build a more close-knit community amongst women officers. It also allows our women to contribute and share their concerns as well as their experiences.

 

18. The PWC has become the ‘voice’ and front issues specific to women officers. For example, very practical thing that women are good at, we asked you to tell us what you think during the recent review of uniforms. I’m glad we were able to incorporate your views.

 

19. Moving forward, I believe that the PWC will continue to drive new initiatives to better support our women officers. For example, science and technology will be a big part of policing in the years to come. And technology will increasingly play a part in our work. How can our women officers be more future-ready? How can you help SPF scale new heights? How can SPF bring out the best in you?

 

Conclusion

20. Next Friday is International Women’s Day.

 

21. To be honest, for me personally, the women who have most inspired me have not been international big-names but people in my personal lives. They include friends and colleagues, and of course my grandmother who is no longer with us and my mother.

 

22. As some of you know, my mother was a police officer. That is why I said that I have seen first-hand what it takes to be a women police officer, and the sacrifices that you make. It was my mother’s first and only career. At different times in SPF, my mother served in Radio, I’ve actually visited the underground facility which you have all the switchboard, Traffic, CID and ISD. I even remember her doing shift work when we were still living in a one-room flat in Geylang Serai. She’s right here today.

 

23. If you have ever wondered where I found the courage to enter public life, look no further than my mother. Her feisty character and resilience must have rubbed off on me.Her willingness to sacrifice her own leisure to help me look after my children when they were young was critical. It gave me the peace of mind to focus on work. As to what moulded my mother’s character, I’m inclined to believe the Police and Old Police Academy had a lot to do with it because when she started her police career, she was not yet 20. So, it must have moulded her character.

 

24. So to Mom and all the women police officers, thank you for your spark and strength.Every single one of you helped to keep Singaporeans safe, and our country secure. And that has been the case for over 70 years. But your impact was probably much more, beyond anything you might have imagined, and definitely beyond anything the first 10 women in 1949 has set foot to start police training could have imagined.

 

25. For all the women in policing today, the future is for us to create together. And the future is bright.

 

26. I wish you and all women police officers, past and future, Happy 70!

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