In 2017, Singapore’s first woman president was elected. This is none other than President Halimah, who’s currently serving her term as the 8th President of the Republic of Singapore. She’s a force to be reckoned with; in fact, she has recently ranked 37th on the list of the 500 most influential Muslims!
Compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan, the annual list ranks Muslims based on how they’ve positively impacted a community. President Halimah was first included in the list in 2018, rising from the 45th spot to the 41st spot in the next.
Big steps forward
Singapore has long been known as a multiracial country, a safe place where different races can harmoniously coexist. Such an ideal is furiously championed by President Halimah, who declared that “discrimination of any form and against anyone has no place at all in our society and, most certainly, not at the workplace”.
The post was directed towards employers, in the wake of an incident where a sales promoter was asked to remove her hijab in order to work at Tangs. This naturally caused outrage among many, as such an act was seen to be one of racial discrimination. President’s Halimah steadfast stand on the issue had immediate results – Tangs went on to standardise the practice of allowing religious headgear across all their outlets! She goes on to recognise how “diversity is our strength”, lending her voice to ensure equality for all.
What else has she done for Singapore?
It seems as if President Halimah isn’t afraid to speak up and let her voice be heard, no matter the subject. With freedom of speech readily available nowadays, it’s easy for public presenters to rattle on without any thought of consequence. For example, online local podcast, OkLetsGo made a couple of misogynistic comments in a casual manner, on top of sexually objectifying women in some of their episodes.
This was promptly called out by President Halimah, who called on the three hosts to “sincerely and humbly apologise to all women for their offensive, humiliating and misogynistic remarks… It’s not ok to treat women like dirtbags and punching bags”. In the same post, she celebrated women in Singapore, recognising their importance in “building healthy communities which will be undermined by such podcasts”.
This subsequently led to an apology by OkLetsGo, which came just hours after President Halimah’s post. This is my favourite part of her post:
“Women are not objects to be made fun of, ridiculed and trampled upon, and no one has the right to do that to them. Women have the right to be respected, valued for their contributions in the family in our society.”
You go, President Halimah! Thank you for speaking up for us.
Walking the ground
President Halimah is also a fervent advocate of mental health. She has spent a significant amount of time being devoted to various social causes, and has served as the chief patron to Club HEAL – an institution dedicated to “helping people with mental illness and their family members lead a fulfilling and stigma-free life” – for several years.
In addition, a quick look on her Facebook page revealed many occasions where she personally went down to interact with citizens, such as joining retirees for their exercise sessions, joining in team-building activities at Job Club, or decorating lanterns with students.
“Securing our future in a different world”
Changes are inevitable – the crux lies in whether a country can adapt accordingly. President Halimah has acknowledged how imperative it is for Singapore to relate and evolve, placing emphasis on job security, ensuring equality, strengthening the Singaporean identity, as well as forming a united political front.
She also exerts effort in maintaining strong bilateral ties with other countries, such as Thailand and Austria.
Indeed, every president leaves an impact on Singapore, and it seems as if President Halimah has gone above and beyond to ensure the progress and wellbeing of all Singaporeans. We salute you, Madam President!
(Note: The abovementioned is by no means exhaustive, and simply comprises a summary of our favourite things done by President Halimah.)