Message to the International Women's Day Conference

Shirin Fozdar, Secretary Singapore Women's Council

Singapore, 6th March, 1956

Dear Friends:

The people of Singapore have awakened from their political lethargy and desire not to be considered a country of spineless people, who wallow contentedly in the depth of their degradation. Last year different political parties were formed, and the struggle for winning seats in the legislature began. During the electioneering campaign grand words were uttered, socialistic reforms were promised to the masses and their interests assured. Unfortunately every one of these parties seemed to be thinking in terms of the male population alone, and they feared to touch the problem of women lest they may lose popular support. Their pandering to only the male population showed the indifference of the parties to the country as a whole. The candidates were concerned with their own self aggrandisement and not interested in the welfare and solidarity of the family unit which is the basis of all civilised and progressive countries.

It is very gratifying to note that the People's Action Party has realised the need for giving some importance to the women and is observing the International Women's Day. The people of a country constitute both the male as well as the female, and it is but apt that a party wishing to identify itself with the "People" should not forget the other half, i.e. the women. A modern seer has stated that "The male and the female are like the two wings of a bird, which when reinforced with the same impulse the bird of humanity will soar heavenward to the summit of progress."

The world's modern yardstick measures the greatness of a country according to the heights to which women have arisen. If women are kept in subjection then to that extent the country is considered backward. What greatness can we expect for this country where, in every home, the women live in a state of constant fear of being deprived of marital security and everything that goes to make a happy family? All advanced nations have granted equal rights to women and facilitated their rising to contribute their share and shoulder equal responsibilities with men for the progress of their country. It is very unfortunate that in this country a woman after serving her husband faithfully for years, bearing and rearing his children, suddenly finds herself discardedfor anotherr younger woman. The unfortunate children,born of such fathers, have no security and are often sold or given away or permitted to add themselves to the number of delinquents. Very often the home of a polygamous man is like a battleground where each wife with her children is pitted against the other wives and their children. The husband who originally had hoped to have a large unified family to rejoice his heart will find his heart broken at the spectacle of hate and discord among his wives and their children. Such men are the cause of untold misery to their progeny who very often due to poverty become a burden on society. It is high time, therefore, that polygamy and easy divorces were abolished in Singapore.

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Last modified: 25 April 2001