Thursday, 4 Jun 2020

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo: I found courage to enter public life because of my mom

SINGAPORE – Manpower Minister Josephine Teo found the courage to enter public life because of her mother, who had served as a police officer for more than 20 years.

Mrs Teo cited her mother’s service when she paid tribute to the achievements of female police officers at an event on Saturday (March 2) that celebrated 70 years of women in policing.

She told around 650 officers, volunteer police and retirees gathered at the Home Team Academy that she had learned first-hand what it takes to be a woman police officer and the sacrifices they make by seeing her mother Madam Leow Chee Chu going out on duty.

“In truth, it is not easy for women officers to manage career and family,” Mrs Teo noted.

“Your work often requires sacrifices; such as weekends with loved ones that you cannot be part of or key events at home that you missed because you’re on duty.”

Madam Leow, 77, served in radio, traffic, the Criminal Investigation Department and the Internal Security Department during her time with the Singapore Police Force (SPF).

“It was my mother’s first and only career. I even remember her doing shift work when we were still living in a one-room flat in Geylang Serai,” said Mrs Teo, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs on Population.

“If you have ever wondered where I found the courage to enter public life, look no further than my mother. Her feisty character and resilience must have rubbed off on me.

“Her willingness to sacrifice her own leisure to help me look after my children when they were young was critical. It gave me the peace of mind to focus on work, on service.

“As to what moulded my mother’s character, I’m inclined to believe the police and the Old Police Academy had a lot to do with it because when she started her police career, she was not yet 20.”

There are now almost 1,800 women officers in the SPF, a far cry from the 10 pioneers, including Ms Mary Quintal, who started police training in 1949.

“Mary excelled in a field traditionally dominated by men,” noted Mrs Teo.

“Without Mary Quintal and (her) other colleagues, who formed that Magnificent 10, you could say, and the other trailblazers that came after them, we might not today have the privilege of a woman heading our CID,” Mrs Teo said.

She added that female officers now undergo the same training and are deployed alongside their male counterparts in every police unit except the Gurkha contingent.

The Police Women’s Committee (PWC) has become the “voice” for issues specific to women officers.

“I believe that the PWC will continue to drive new initiatives to better support our women officers. For example, science and technology will be a big part of policing in the years to come,” Mrs Teo added.

The Force’s high-flyers now include Ms Florence Chua, named the first female deputy commissioner and concurrent director CID last year, and Ms Zuraidah Abdullah, who in 2013 became the first female senior assistant commissioner.

Ms Chua will be inducted to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame later this month, joining 152 others, including Ms Zuraidah, who was inducted in 2014.

Other notable role models include Ms Ng Guat Ting, who became the first female to lead a Land Division in 1999, and Ms Sng May Yen, who was the first female commander to lead a SPF peacekeeping contingent when she joined the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor in 2007.

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