Consultant Ms Yu-Lin Ooi conducted an enlightening talk on the nature of philanthropy acted out by Asian women in early Singapore. Four key questions were discussed: firstly, who were Singapore’s early women philanthropists, secondly what contributions did they make, thirdly how were their contributions expressed, and finally were there any key factors that hindered/ enabled women in doing philanthropic work?
Over 70 participants packed the room to glean from the nuanced understanding of women in philanthropy that consultant Ms Ooi had gathered in the context of her interviewees’ life experiences and memories. From the Chinese/ Straits Chinese to the Indians/ Ceylonese, the Jews, to the Arabs and Malay-Muslims, women had superseded formal notions of monetary philanthropic giving to volunteer and contribute informally in sharing resources like food, helping mark key rites of passage, and passing on culture, values and faith to next generations. These contributions differed from traditional giving of men in philanthropy, but no less supported the growth of communities and identity in early Singapore.
Philanthropy in Transition: An Exploratory Study of Asian Women and Philanthropy in Singapore, 1900-1945 the working paper and culmination of months of research, was also launched. The impact of these unsung heroes has just begun to be uncovered and we look forward to more stories to come.
We thank Mr Robin Thevathasan, Ms Joy Thevathasan, Ms Roshini Prakash, Ms Siu Tin, Ms Su-Lin Ang, Mdm Ng Siu Yue, Prof Jin Bee, Mr Neil Ang, Ms Norhidawati, Ms Nurfarhana and ACSEP Chairman Mr Keith Chua for their gracious support at the seminar and contributions to the research.