IWF Singapore recently commemorated its 20th anniversary celebration with a very successful Conference, themed “Harmony in Diversity” and a fund-raising gala dinner. The two-day event brought together more than 140 participants, comprising global forum presidents, IWF board members, IWF Leadership Foundation Board members, Singapore members, and local guests as well as from the region.
Day One kicked off with an activities-packed agenda. Early risers were treated to an introductory tai chi class led by IWF member, Saw Phaik Hwa, a tai chi and martial art exponent.
Participants were soon ferried off to the “Behind the Scenes” visits hosted by two prominent corporate leaders and IWF members. First stop was the Housing Development Board where they learned about the successful public housing program which saw 80% of Singaporean co-existing harmoniously in public housing developed by the Housing Development Board. The visit was hosted by CEO of HDB, Dr. Cheong Koon Hean ,also an IWF member, who gave an insightful presentation on the policies of Singapore’s housing program.
Next was a tour of a specially curated artworks at the National Gallery Singapore, home to the world’s largest collection of South East Asia arts. On hand to welcome the participants was CEO Ms. Chong Siak Ching, and a fellow IWF member.
In-Conversation with Minister was a lively dialogue between Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and famous Chinese media personality Ms. Yang Lan, where issues pertaining to women’s representation in boardrooms to fathers playing a more active role at home were discussed with enthusiastic contributions from the floor. The luncheon discussion was hosted by Mr. Piyush Gupta, CEO of the Development Bank of Singapore. DBS Bank, a Singaporean multi-national bank which was named by Euromoney in 2016 as the World’s Best Digital Bank. Four of our IWF Singapore members are on the Board and Senior Management Team of DBS.
Further visits to museums followed before IWF members broke into smaller groups for their intimate dine-arounds at the homes of local members. Playing gracious hosts for the evening were Mrs. Annie Wee, Mrs. Lee Suet-Fern, Mrs. Doreen Liu and Ms. Michelle LiemMs. Maryann Tsao.
Expounding on the theme of “Harmony in Diversity” diversity was Singapore’s Speaker of Parliament, Madam Halimah Yacob whose opening address at the Conference focused on unconscious prejudice in the world around us regarding gender, ethnicity or religion; and the Singapore story of building an inclusive multi-racial culture and society. Quoting Madam Speaker, “We (Singapore) strive to embrace harmony in diversity, and pay close attention to the balance between the interests of the individual and the common good; between the desire of each community to protect its way of life and the wider social harmony. I think we have not done too badly in living up to our ideal of one united people, regardless of race, language or religion.”
Panel discussions ranged from how public space, private beliefs; arts, culture,language, politics; technology and business contribute influence and impact harmony; to how different generations view diversity. Both local and international IWF members were equally engaged with the wide-ranging topics that took center stage.
Prominent speakers included a Nobel Prize team winner, Sister Denise Coghlan, a Roman Catholic nun and Director of Jesuit Refugee Service, IWF member Dr. Aline Wong, Chancellor, Singapore Institute of Management University, Ambassador Barbara Barrett, Chairman of the Board of the Aerospace Corporation, Mr. Bahren Shaari, CEO of Bank of Singapore, visually-impaired IBM Research Fellow, Ms. Chieko Asakawa, and Ms. Yang Lan, Chairperson of Sun Media Group and Sun Culture Foundation, China.
The two day celebration culminated in a gala charity dinner held at the Grand Ballroom of the historic Fullerton Hotel. Guest of honor for the evening was another IWF member, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Ms. Grace Fu, who congratulated the Singapore Forum for an outstanding conference and exceeding their target of S$250,000 to finance the IWF Singapore Education Grants Fund for Young Women.
The “IWF Singapore Education Grants Fund For Young Women” is a bursary program set up by IWF Singapore in 2014 to aid financially disadvantaged women in Singapore in their pursuit of polytechnic and university education. Members and friends have contributed a total of $174,000 to this fund over the past three years, benefiting 5 to 6 young women each year. With the new funds, IWF Singapore looks forward to financing 20 young women each year in their educational pursuits for the next eight years.
Local guests were adorned in heritage outfits showcasing the best of Singapore’s multi-cultural influences and equally resplendent were international guests in their evening elegance.
Singapore Forum President, Ms. Janet Ang and IWF 20 organizing chairperson, Mrs. Laura Hwang together with Minister Grace Fu led a group of former Presidents in a ceremonial cake-cutting to commemorate 20 years of leadership and friendships that span careers, continents and cultures.
For many guests present that evening, it was also a time where new friendships were cemented and old ties renewed.