Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the Exemplary Mother Award 2018

Ms Sim Ann, Sr Minister of State for MCCY and MCI,

Advisor to the Exemplary Mother Award Panel of Judges

 

Prof (Adjunct) Dr. Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar,

President of Jamiyah Singapore

 

Ms Claire Chiang, Chairman of the Panel of Judges

for Jamiyah’s Exemplary Mother Award

 

Excellencies

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Let me first thank Jamiyah for inviting me to officiate at this event and thus giving me the opportunity to also show my appreciation to the wonderful mothers taking part in this award, as well as, all the mothers wherever you may be, as you toil daily to take care of your families. 

This is the 26th year that Jamiyah is organising this event and that by itself speaks volumes on the endearing nature of this endeavour, as the celebration of a mother’s role is timeless. Poets, writers and singers have extolled the virtues of motherhood over centuries and in all religions too motherhood has a special place. When our Prophet Mohamed Pbuh was asked by a man who the Prophet thought was deserving of a person’s good companionship, the Prophet replied thrice that a person’s mother was the most deserving of his companionship. Only in the fourth reply, did the Prophet mention that the father was deserving of the person’s good companionship.

Why is motherhood so revered and why should we continue to recognise exemplary mothers is therefore self-evident but is something that we still need to be reminded of from time to time. In today’s context, celebrating motherhood has become even more important as people have conflicting demands on their time and resources and they have a wide variety of options on what to do with their lives.

In some cases, that may lead them to choose a path of childlessness because they know that motherhood involves very heavy responsibilities and they feel inadequate or unprepared to deal with them. Yet, many more, I’m glad, chose motherhood because they know that the joys of motherhood are irreplaceable and overshadow the difficulties that they have to face. Motherhood is a deliberate and wonderful choice that women all over the world make. Of equal importance, they have had very wonderful experiences growing up with their own mothers, who had showered them with unstinting love and care, and they wanted to share the same love with their own children. Many of us remember our own mothers and the little things they do for us.  Mothers always have a special role in our lives.

But let us also accept the fact that mothers today are faced with many challenges, some have existed since time immemorial, such as the pressures on time, but others are new and created by different challenges from yesteryears. Mothers today have a lot more assistance in raising children. There are more child care facilities and student care centres. Many also have access to foreign domestic helpers to assist them in their caregiving responsibilities.

Today, many mothers also harness technology to engage their children. This has enabled them to remain in contact with their children wherever they may be and allowed mothers to work with greater peace of mind. At the same time, new technology can also lead to problems. Cyber bullying, sexual grooming of children by predators, pornography and other undesirable exposures, also take place through the internet. Such internet facilitated dangers require parents to acquire new knowledge and skills to help their children stay safe and free from trouble. What suits us in the old days are no longer hundred per cent relevant today but will have to be modified and refined to suit today’s needs. What we learnt from our own mothers are no longer sufficient to help us navigate the complexities of bringing up our children today.

So, I am glad that there are many groups now helping mothers (and fathers) too to perform their parenting roles more effectively and make their journey as parents a lot more pleasant and meaningful.

All the nominees in this year’s Jamiyah Exemplary Mothers’ Award have compelling and heart-warming stories to tell. I spoke to the nominees earlier. It is indeed so wonderful to hear their stories. Some not only take care of their own children but the children of their siblings too! One took care of 10 children, both hers and her siblings. One of the nominees not only worked hard to raise her family, but also fostered children and cared for them as if they were her own. Another became the sole breadwinner to her family of four sons after her husband fell ill, and still found time to volunteer in a Parent’s support group and as religious class organiser. These are truly heart-warming stories to hear. These are inspiring role models for all of us. I am sure that the judging panel, led by Ms Claire Chiang, had a very difficult time in choosing the winner for this year’s award.  I am glad that this year there are more nominees which show that more are looking forward to this award and see it as a recognition of their contributions.

To me, every one of the nominee is a winner. Your hard work, resilience, sacrifices and unconditional love and support for your children, have put you in a special league. I hope that your examples will inspire other mothers and give hope to the many who are struggling to raise their families.

I am also glad that Jamiyah has included a new category this year – the Exemplary Young Mother Award, in recognition of the efforts and contributions of young mothers and mothers-to-be. The award is especially relevant since motherhood is a process and the journey can be challenging.

Let me conclude by once again thanking Jamiyah for continuing this tradition started by the late Almarhum Tuan Haji Abu Bakar Maidin and other visionary community leaders 26 years ago. It is a good example of the concerted effort by our community to respect and recognise women across our society.

Congratulations to the winner and to all the nominees as well. Have an enjoyable afternoon.