Effective follow up, periodic reports on progress needed beyond White Paper on S'pore women: Halimah Yacob, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Effective follow up, periodic reports on progress needed beyond White Paper on S'pore women: Halimah Yacob

Beyond the policies and programmes proposed in the 10-year road map to nudge Singapore towards gender equality, the country needs to also ensure there are effective follow-up and periodic reports on progress made, said President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday (April 6).

Her Facebook post comes after the White Paper on Singapore Women's Development was unanimously endorsed by all MPs present in Parliament on Tuesday following a 91/2-hour debate.

Madam Halimah acknowledged that the country has come a long way since independence in efforts to raise the status of women, but gender equality is a work in progress.

"There is no society that can claim to have fully achieved this. Beyond policies and programmes to achieve the White Paper's goals, we are dealing with social norms and deeply entrenched biases," she said.

Only if Singapore is able to change these norms and biases - which will take time - can it achieve real equality.

Where the country can make progress through identifiable goals whether in flexi work, better caregiver support or other areas, it should do so, she added.

But while men have a definite role to play in changing the deeply entrenched mindsets and prejudices, Madam Halimah said women too must examine their own biases.

"I heard of a relationship that broke up because the boyfriend's mother insisted that the girl must give up working once they were married, which she refused. We think that this is absurd but it's still happening," she added.

"As women, we too can do our part to create an environment that is supportive of gender equality at home and at the workplace."

Madam Halimah welcomes the enhanced sentences for repeat sex offenders, which are included in the White Paper.

She added that Singapore also needs measures to stop paedophiles from having access to vulnerable children as commercial operators providing services, other than childcare, do not have to be licensed.

She noted that the White Paper is a useful platform for deeper conversations and plans of action on how to achieve greater gender equality.

"It has helped to raise awareness and put a spotlight on some of the challenges and obstacles that women continue to face. But it requires everyone's commitment and support - collectively and individually - for progress to be made. The government alone cannot do it," she said.

The debate on Tuesday saw MPs from both sides of the House speaking on promoting flexible work arrangements, enhancing support for parents and caregivers, and changing mindsets - three key pillars of the White Paper - among others.

Some called for an accelerated timeline to entrench flexible work arrangements as a workplace norm while others recognised the disproportionate burden that female caregivers bear and proposed mandatory family care leave or more shared parental leave.

More protection for women who face various types of harm - such as online, physical or sexual - was also called for. Other MPs placed emphasis on the role that men have to play.