Meet Halimah Yakob, The First Female President of Singapore

Singapore’s political world is very unique and colorful. Singapore has had its first female president since 2017. She is Halimah Yacob.

Halimah Yacob is also the fourth female head of state in Southeast Asia after Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from the Philippines and Megawati Sukarnoputri from Indonesia. Interestingly, as a child, Halimah used to sell nasi padang, a typical Indonesian dish.

This is the full profile and life inspiration of Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s first female president to ever sell Nasi Padang.

Profile of Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s first female president

Halimah was born to an Indian father and a Malay mother on August 23rd, 1954. Her father died of a heart attack when Halimah was eight years old.

Halimah’s mother, Madam Maimun Abdullah, raised Halimah and her four siblings. Her family was in poverty at the time of his father’s death.

In an interview, Halimah Yacob praised her mother, “She is a hard worker, never gives up, very tenacious, rarely gets sick […] Due to the difficulties she has to go through, her life motto is ‘never say die, never give up,’ said Halimah.

Madam Maimun Abdullah, mother of Halimah Yacob, died at the age of 90 on September 11th 2015. On that date, Singaporeans went to the polls for the General Election.

As a child, Halimah Yacob helped her mother sell Nasi Padang outside the former Singapore Polytechnic (now the Bestway Building) along Prince Edward Road, Singapore.

Halimah used to help her mother wait for her mother’s rice field wheelbarrow after school and during the holidays. While helping her mother sell nasi padang, Halimah saw the students of the Singapore Polytechnic passing by.

“I saw the polytechnic kids and I said to myself, ‘Wow great, they all go to polytechnics. Maybe one day I will go to this polytechnic, get a diploma and (then) get a good job, take care of myself and my mother,” recalls Halimah.

Halimah Yacob studied diligently while helping her mother sell nasi padang. She continued her studies at the University of Singapore, where she obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree in 1978. Halimah Yakob received an Islamic Religious Council (Muis) scholarship so that she could study.

In 2001, he completed her Master of Laws at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by NUS on 7 July 2016.

Halimah Yakob’s work for the welfare of Singapore

After graduating, Halimah Yacob joined the National Trade Union Congress. Halimah Yacob is the first Singaporean to be elected to the governing body of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Halimah has served on various boards including the Housing and Development Council, Fair Employment Practices Tripartite Alliance, Tripartite Working Group on Improving Employment Options for Women.

Halimah supports flexible work arrangements and family care leave to improve work-life balance. She has also succeeded in fighting for equal medical benefits for female civil servants.

Halimah was awarded as “Achiever of the Year” by Berita Harian in 2001 and “Woman of the Year” by Her World Magazine in 2004.

In 2017, Halimah resigned from her position as Chair of the DPR to contest the presidential election. In September 2017 she was sworn in as Singapore’s eighth president and the country’s first female president.

Halimah Yacob is the first Malay to become president since Singapore’s first President, Encik Yusof Ishak, 47 years ago (counting from 2017).

At that time, only Halimah was declared eligible to be a presidential candidate by the Election Department, so she won the walkover. Most of the respondents of a poll did not like Halimah. However, Halimah proved that she was capable of being a good president.

Halimah is also good friends with all walks of life, regardless of ethnic background, religion, and race. Even in the world of politics that is said to be tough, Halimah Yakub can actually collaborate with politicians from various backgrounds.

Halimah Yacob’s inspiration

Halimah Yacob’s inspiration was beautifully summed up by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a speech at President Halimah Yacob’s swearing-in ceremony at the Singapore Palace on September 14, 2017.

“Mrs President, congratulations on your election. Your life story reflects the Singapore Story — how we have come this far together, and what we aspire to as a nation.

You have overcome a difficult challenge in your life. Your early years had difficulties and shortcomings. But you study and work hard, to get a good education and a steady job to support your family.

In time you achieve success, but you never forget your childhood poverty. You go out of your way to help those in need, and enable many others to succeed as you yourself have done.

In Singapore, no matter where we start in life, if we work hard, we will have many opportunities; and when we do good, we in turn have a responsibility to help others around us.”

Written by Ruang Berbagi.

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