The Leaderboard: Halimah Yacob

Who is she?

Halimah Yacob served as Singapore’s minister of state for social and family development from May 2011 until early 2013. As a politician, she has been known for her involvement in labor and welfare issues and for her work in Malay and Muslim communities.

She was appointed as an adviser to the National Council of Social Service on January 23, an umbrella body for 400 volunteer organizations. She held various posts in the National Trades Union Congress before entering politics in 2001, and served on the International Labor Organization’s governing body between 2000 and 2005.

Ms. Halimah Yacob is Singapore’s new speaker of parliament. Source: e_chaya's flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Why is she in the news?

Ms. Halimah was appointed speaker of Singapore’s parliament on January 14, replacing Michael Palmer who resigned a month earlier because of extramarital affairs. She is the first woman and the second Malay to serve as the speaker of parliament.

Her election is a symbol of growing gender equality in politics and an inspiration for Malay youth, who are a minority in Singapore.

What can we expect?

As speaker, Ms. Halimah is expected to be impartial in moderating parliamentary debates. She is described by other members of parliament as a firm and active politician. The public, however, is concerned that her position as speaker will stop her from advocating for issues she has long worked on such as protection for low-wage workers, elderly and child care, and gender diversity in corporate leadership.

Minister of Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said that although he supports her as speaker, he is saddened that the cabinet and the Malay community will lose her voice. Dr. Yaacob is in talks to give her a role in Mendaki, a Malay self-help group.

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