May 21st, 2011

Why no female Minister?

AWARE is disappointed by the absence of a female minister in the new Cabinet line-up announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on May 18.

Besides the lack of a female minister in the new Cabinet, none of the new female Members of Parliament were given Minister of State (MOS) positions. In comparison, several male newcomers were appointed either Minister or Minister of State.

At a press conference held on May 19 to announce the release of AWARE’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Shadow Report, Ms Braema Mathi called for transparency and clarity in the appointment process. Ms Mathi is the chairperson of AWARE’s CEDAW Sub-Committee as well as AWARE’s Research and Advocacy Director.

She emphasised that AWARE did not believe that women should be appointed Ministers solely on the basis of their gender. However, she believed that citizens would want to know the “transparency of the criteria” and the “recruitment process” of these office-holders who will be making decisions on their behalf and there must be some “broad strokes that one could share”. The best way to address these concerns would be to accord transparency and clarity to the recruitment criteria and appointment process.

Ms Mathi said that there is an element of risk with giving a new person a ministerial position immediately. However, it should also be noted that this very risk was taken by giving ministerial positions to male newcomers into Parliament such as MG(NS) Chan Chun Sing (Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and MOS for Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts), Mr Heng Swee Keat (Minister for Education), Lawrence Wong (MOS for Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Education) and BG(NS) Tan Chuan-Jin (MOS for Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Manpower).

“Can’t that same risk also be given to women candidates or women who have already been given responsibilities?” she asked.

Ms Mathi also questioned why the promotion of women in Parliament was “step-by-step”. For example, see the lateral move of MOS for Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Dr Amy Khor – the best performer at the ballot box – to MOS for Health, and Senior Minister of State (SMS) for National Development and Education Grace Fu’s move to SMS for MEWR and Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts.

AWARE hopes that the State will, in keeping with its treaty obligations under CEDAW, make a concerted effort to encourage and support the current female office bearers to become full Ministers sooner rather than later.

Read more about CEDAW and AWARE’s CEDAW Shadow Report 2011 here.


  1. Lee Yew Moon

    The attitude towards women echoed by this young PAP candidate would provide a clue as to why there are no women ministers.

  2. Dr Png Poh-seng

    I have suggested to Ms Olivia Lum, recent winner of the International Entrepreneur award, that she stands for the coming Presidential Election, and if she is elected Singapore’s first female President, she will really create history for Singapore! Will AWARE fully support this proposal?

  3. fabrizzo

    this just illustrates paranoia.what makes u think that the cabinet discriminates against women?couldnt it be those most suitable for candidacy happens to be males?must everything be made a man/woman issue?are we having a gender war here?come on,what century is this?does the law even discriminate against women anymore??
    it has come to my conclusion,that people who spoke against females,might either be really sexists,or they might just be fed up by the fuss caused by women at every little suspicion of discrimination against them.or it might be their word are taken out of context and distorted by truly sexist people
    i have sent an email to aware and women charter on my views as to why,in many circumstances,its men who get disadvantaged,so shouldnt they protest it too?i hope u can take some time to read it