updated 9 Mar 2010, 23:06
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Tue, Mar 09, 2010
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More role models needed for young S'porean Indian girls
by Sheela Narayanan

FORMER Nominated Member of Parliament Braema Mathi (above) quotes a Chinese proverb when asked about the status of women in Singapore: “Women hold up half the sky.” She goes on to explain that Singapore Indian women do their fair share of the lifting economically and financially but tradition still has its pull in their lives.

Ms Mathi, who chairs Aware’s sub-committee on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), tells tabla! that while Singapore Indian women occupy two ends of the economic spectrum, tradition still binds them: “You have the tertiary educated women, the high flyers, and the women on the other end of the spectrum who have various education levels and have lower skilled jobs. But with both groups, tradition still plays a big role.”

She feels many Singapore Indian women have to juggle a career, run their homes and bring up their children with little support from their spouses.

While most women across ethnic borders struggle with that issue, it is a little sharper among Singapore Indian women, adds Ms Mathi: “Some women feel inadequate trying to meet the expectations at work and at home. And Singapore Indian men also feel bound by traditional issues.”

She would like more research to be done in the community to get a better picture of the issues that Singapore Indian women grapple with daily.

Singapore ranked 85 in the World Economic Forum’s 2009 Global Gender Gap Report, down from the 77th position in 2008 in the survey of 134 nations.

Iceland took the top spot. The Associated Press reported that about 93 per cent of the gender gap had been closed in terms of education, 60 per cent for economic participation and opportunity and only 17 per cent for political empowerment.

Ms Mathi feels that the issue of low self-esteem among young Indian women and girls needs to be addressed, and would like to see more Indian women as role models for young Indian girls.

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