Chairperson: Dr. Kanwaljit Soin
A highly accomplished and respected orthopaedic and hand surgeon, Dr Kanwaljit Soin is a former Nominated Member of Parliament, and an outspoken campaigner dedicated to improving the lives of women.
Kanwaljit topped her medical school class and was awarded the MBBS (Hons) in 1966. She obtained her Master of Medicine (Surgery) from the University of Singapore in 1970, and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Singapore Academy of Medicine.
Her quest to help people extends far beyond hospital consulting rooms and operating theatres. Kanwaljit is a tireless proponent of women’s rights, holding numerous positions in welfare and advocacy organisations.
Her work in civil society began in 1985, when Kanwaljit was a founding member of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). She was AWARE’s President between 1991 and 1993.
Kanwaljit was Singapore’s first female Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) from 1992 to 1996. When selected she announced her constituency included ‘women everywhere’, so it was her duty to question the gender implications of all government policy.
In 1995 she tabled the Family Violence Bill, which was not supported, but its key proposals were later included in amendments to the Women’s Charter. Women’s rights activists consider this work to be Kanwaljit’s greatest contribution to Singapore, resulting in the introduction of Personal Protection Orders for victims of domestic abuse.
Her civil society activities include being the founding chair of the Singapore chapter of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the founding president of Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully” (WINGS). She has also been a president of the Singapore chapter of the International Women’s Forum, and is a Global Ambassador of HelpAge International which works with and for disadvantaged older people all over the world. She has also served, and continues to serve, in various positions in medical professional associations.
Kanwaljit’s work is widely recognised. In 1992 she was named Singapore’s “Woman of the Year”. Internationally she is the recipient of the International Women’s Forum’s “Women Who Make a Difference Award”, and a UNIFEM Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2008 she received the Singapore Medical Association Merit Award in recognition of her significant contribution and valuable services to the community and also the “Good Samaritan” Award from the Rotary Club of Singapore.
Richard graduated fromthe NUS School of Architecture in 1982 and worked for William SW Lim and Kerry Hill, both eminent architects, before venturing to Europe in 1986. He is grateful to have William SW Lim and Kerry Hill as his mentors.
He set up RichardHO Architects upon his return to Singapore in Nov 1991, after working for six years in Austria and Italy – the last two years in Milan with Aldo Rossi, a world-renowned architect and Pritzker Prize recipient in 1990.
Tan Tatt Si
Tan Tatt Si is the current President of the Humanist Society (Singapore).
The Humanist Society (Singapore) was formed in 2010 as a group of humanists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics and other like-minded people in Singapore. The society seeks to represent non-religious people in Singapore who pursue ethical and fulfilling lives. The society is guided by reason, informed by evidence and driven by compassion.
Their events raise awareness of science, humanism and ethical living. There gatherings serve as a treasured space for rational discussions and for finding friendship with like-minded people. The Society holds workshops on humanism, ethics and science, and social events such as barbecues and festive celebrations. Community service includes hot meals for the elderly and holding blood donation drives.
Peter is the founder of Peter Low LLC. He first started his law career as State Counsel and Deputy Public Prosecutor before moving into private practice. Peter has approximately 37 years of experience handling complex civil, commercial, criminal and matrimonial litigation. Peter was also the President of the Law Society of Singapore in 1991.
Peter is renowned locally and internationally as a human rights lawyer and fearless public interest litigator. Peter’s expertise in public interest litigation dates back to the 1980s, since the time of the so-called “Marxist Conspiracy”.
Apart from lawyering, Peter takes a keen interest in human rights advocacy. Peter is one of the founding members of MARUAH, Singapore’s leading human rights NGO. Through MARUAH, Peter actively engages in forums and speaks on human rights issues in the region.
Being at the forefront of law-making, Peter is regularly invited to share his views on novel points of law, as a panellist at academic conferences involving constitutional law, administrative law, defamation and contempt of court.
Peter also believes in giving back to society and in sharing his knowledge with the legal community and the public alike. Peter is frequently invited to speak at workshops conducted by and for non-legally trained professionals. He is also often consulted by local and foreign media for his professional opinion on the legal aspects of current affairs as well as developments in the legal profession.
Dr. Shawn YK Lum is a tropical rainforest ecologist. He was born in Hawaii and was educated at Harvard University and obtained his Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley in 1993. Dr Lum joined the Natural Sciences and Science Education Faculty at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, where he currently offers undergraduate courses on the Diversity and Evolution of Plants, Environmental Studies and Global Issues, the Conservation and Management of Natural Habitats and Environmental Sustainability. He is a member of the Botanical Society of America, the American Society of Plant Systematists and the Singapore Institute of Biology. Dr Lum is the current President of the Nature Society (Singapore) and Secretary of Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore).
Dr Lum’s main interests include rainforest ecology and the diversification of tree species. He also does work in conservation biology and environmental education, and interacts with a wide range of people, from fellow researchers to naturalists, primary school pupils, and educators. He is the Principal Investigator of a long-term forest dynamics study at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, a project carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Forest Science (CTFS).
Constance Singam came late to activism, only getting involved, slowly, after she was widowed in 1978 at the age of 42. For 18 years she had let her husband make the decisions; now she had to reinvent herself. In 1980, she went back to university to get a degree. She joined the women’s rights group AWARE when it was launched in 1986. She went to forums and began to speak up. As she gained confidence, each new step into civil society became surer. In the last 30 years, Constance has led women’s organisations, co-founded civil society groups, been a columnist in several national publications, spoken at countless forums and seminars, contributed to and co-edited several books, and written her memoir.
Returning at the end of 1984 after four years at university in Melbourne, Australia, Constance found herself a job and settled back into the rhythm of Singapore life. She attended a forum organised by AWARE in 1986 and joined a committee looking into violence against women. It was the start of her journey as an advocate and activist. In 1987 she became president of AWARE. She led AWARE for two terms and remained on the Executive Committee for a further two years.
In 1987, together with the SCWO (Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations) and the National Crime Prevention Council, AWARE launched a year-long ‘Stop Violence against Women’ campaign. In 1990, as AWARE’s nominee, Constance was elected for a two-year term as SCWO president. In 1992, as SCWO president, Constance, together with representatives from AWARE, the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers and the Samaritans of Singapore, initiated discussions with the police about the better management of rape victims. It was the start of a long process that continues today to try to end violence against women and to find ways to more effectively and sensitively respond to cases of sexual and domestic violence.
Constance was again president of AWARE from 1994 to 1996. Then she went back to Australia as a student, this time to get a Master’s degree. One of the modules she took was Feminism and Cultural Studies which, as she says in her memoir, finally gave her ‘the theoretical knowledge about the practical work I had been engaged in the last ten years’.
Back in Singapore, at a 1998 forum about ‘Harnessing State-Society Synergies’, she said Singaporeans’ wariness about getting involved in activism and challenging policies that affected them was a matter that should be discussed openly. This was the start of TWC or The Working Committee, a loose group of people interested in civil society activism. Many small group discussions were held and networking sessions organised for non-governmental organisations. In 1999, TWC organised a conference about civil society and published the book ‘Building Social Spaces in Singapore, after which it disbanded.
In 2002, TWC2 got underway when Constance, together with some AWARE friends, discussed the appalling case of an Indonesian maid who died from the abuse she suffered at the hands of her employer. They decided something needed to be done about the poor treatment of foreign workers in Singapore. Though it was just a group of concerned individuals, TWC2 was able to hold discussions with government officials and various groups. It eventually registered as a society and was renamed Transient Workers Count Too.
Constance returned to the presidency of AWARE in 2007, and once again led it for two terms. In 2014, she was the prime mover of TWC3, another loose grouping of activists. This time the aim was to recognise outstanding civil society organisations and individuals and celebrate their contributions to the community. This is done via the annual Singapore Advocacy Awards.
Secretariat: Catherine Lim
Catherine is the co-founder of the blog, All Things Bukit Brown, atBB (bukitbrown.com) with Claire Leow. atBB has evolved into the banner for a community of individuals who conduct independent research and curate guided public walks, talks and exhibitions on Bukit Brown. In 2012, she produced an 8 part television documentary series called “History from the Hills” on Bukit Brown for local television.
A former broadcast journalist, Catherine freelances as a producer and researcher. She is also a driven and dedicated member of the organising committee of the Singapore Advocacy Awards.