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The Construction of Femininity in a Postcolonial State: Girls’ Education in Singapore ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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The Construction of Femininity in a Postcolonial State:

Charter was passed by parliament in 1961. The United Nations adopted a Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women only in 1967, and women in Indonesia and Malaysia achieved similar protection only in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively.5 Singapore women have also been afforded opportunities for education and employment since the 1960s and appear to have made great strides in many areas of economic and social life. This is summed up in the introductory statement of the Forty-Ninth Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), made by Halimah Yacob, the minister of state for community development, youth, and sports:

Aided by good governance and socio-economic development, women in Singapore have come a long way. Singapore was ranked 10th out of 138 countries on the UN Gender Inequality Index indicating that our women enjoy the same educational, economic and political opportunities as well as healthcare standards as our men. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index has Singapore rising almost 30 places from 84th in 2009 to 56th out of 134 countries in 2010…

With more educational opportunities, many of our women are choosing to work thus allowing them greater career options and financial independence. As a result, stereotypes of women’s roles are disappearing and women today are no longer confined to homemaker roles. The female labour force participation rate in Singapore has increased from below 30% in the 1970s to 56.5% in 2010.6

Indeed, since 1959, when the People’s Action Party (PAP) was elected to power, Singapore women have made great socioeconomic strides as a result of the ruling party’s policy of equal opportunity. Between the years 1959 and 2010, the educational profile of the female population improved markedly. The women’s literacy rate rose significantly from a mere 34 percent in 1957 to 93.8 percent by the year 2010.7 The mean years of schooling for girls more than doubled from 4.6 in 1980 to 9.7 in 2010.8 This increase reflects that most girls were continuing to secondary and