In case you haven’t heard, this year is the year of celebrating SG women. After the whirlwind of having the pandemic hit and most of Singapore working from home (WFH), I think it couldn’t be more apt to celebrate Singapore’s women. Some have adjusted overnight to accommodate both work and childcare roles when WFH was first introduced. While others, who are frontline workers, had to quickly seek alternative childcare arrangements when childcare centres were shuttered due to Covid outbreaks.

Us women, are a resilient and adaptable bunch, I must say. However, we also have to admit that we can’t do everything alone and need the help of many advocates who continue to speak up for us.

Being a working mum, then and now

taking care of babiesCredit: Photo by Sandra Seitamaa on Unsplash

Back in the 1960s, most women became stay-at-home-mums (SAHMs) after having children because they simply didn’t have much choice. They had to pick up the bulk of household responsibilities by taking care of their children and do chores. There was also a sore lack of affordable and quality childcare options then, as there were mostly only “nannies” or family members who could help with childcare arrangements.

Fast forward to 1973, where more women, under the encouragement of the Government, were stepping up to work in full-time roles as Singapore’s economy grew. During this time, many women spoke up candidly about the lack of quality childcare that was available to them. To resolve this issue, a group of female unionists stepped up to start NTUC Childcare in 1977, which is the beginning of what we know now as My First Skool.

NTUC Childcare in 1977Check out the cute kids of class 1977!

Thanks to these women, who not only spoke up for what they needed but also put their hands to the plow to do the work, working mothers today have so many affordable and reliable childcare options! Needless to say, this has taken a huge weight off the shoulders of many women and freed them to pursue their career aspirations.

Continuing the advocacy for women and creating new normal

We should never stop when it comes to female advocacy and helping to better the lives of our women. Times are always changing, and different women have different needs. The pandemic has also shown us that it is possible for the way we work to change drastically overnight. And the WFH arrangement has opened up even more opportunities for women who have been giving feedback and asking for flexible work arrangements.

Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling iempowering womenCredit: Yeo Wan Ling’s Facebook

In her Facebook post, Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling shared that she has advocated fair hiring and employment standards, family friendly workspaces and flexible work arrangements on behalf of the women. Indeed, it seems extra timely to be advocating for a flexible culture and encouraging employers to adopt such an attitude.

Moving forward, we could all continue to advocate and help women achieve the arrangement that they want. Depending on their life stages and ages of their children, these women may choose to work to different degrees. Some may wish for part-time work so they can devote more time to their children, while others who have older children or more childcare help may prefer to work full-time either at home or even at the office.

This article was contributed by Faith Koh.

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