I was born on 23 August 1954, at our family home at Queen Street.

The youngest of five children, I grew up at Hindoo Road and Selegie House. I have many fond memories of friendly neighbours of all races.

I lost my father, when I was only eight. He was a watchman, and fought illness for many years. Despite that, he worked very hard to provide for the family till the very end. After his death, my mum became the breadwinner and worked very hard to provide for the family. She worked at a food stall and was out by 4 am, and was not home until 10 pm every day. From the age of 10, my hours outside of school were spent being my mother's assistant: cleaning, washing, clearing tables and serving customers, and I am a better person for it. I have experienced poverty first-hand and know how debilitating it can be as you struggle to survive, to put food on the table and also grapple with the uncertainty of the future on a daily basis. It limits your choices but also tempers your determination to succeed. My priority then was to finish school, get a job and support my mother.

I went to Singapore Chinese Girls' School. I was one of the few Malay girls there.

In fact, in the years before I joined, the school was semi-private and was not open to minority children. Thereafter, I did my Pre-U at Tanjong Katong Girls' School. I then had the choice to either enter Teachers' Training College and train to be a teacher, or to study law at the University of Singapore. After careful consideration, I picked the latter. It was to be a fateful decision.

It was at the University that I met my university sweetheart, Mohamed Abdullah. He was a Physics major who liked music and performed in a three-piece band with his university friends at university events. We met at the University of Singapore Muslim Society's events where we were both active. We got married in June 1980 and have five children. We shared our responsibilities, and Mohamed remains my strong pillar of support.

Service to Workers

After graduation, I joined the NTUC. That was in 1978, and I spent more than three decades of my life as a trade unionist. I was grateful that the labour movement provided me with my entry into public service. I rose to become the Deputy Secretary General of the NTUC and also held various posts such as Director of the Singapore Institute of Labour Studies, Director of Legal Services and Women's Development, and also served four terms as the Deputy Member of the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation. I'm proud to say that my colleagues and I worked very hard to serve our workers well.

I learnt the importance of building trust. If there is mutual trust, and the union leaders know that you are acting in the best interest of the workers, they will support you.

The same applies in politics. You need to secure the confidence of the people you serve. If they trust you, they know that you are not there for personal reasons.

Member of Parliament, Minister Of State, Speaker

Then Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong, called me prior to the 2001 General Elections to stand as a candidate persuading me that I could play a bigger role if elected into Parliament. Thus in 2001, I entered politics.

Became a Minister of State in 2011, and became the first woman to be elected the Speaker of the House in 2013. Even after becoming Speaker, I continued with my ground engagements and was made the advisor of the National Council of Social Services. I also continued to teach labour laws to trade unionists at the Ong Teng Cheong Institute.

Candidate for Elected President

I have decided to stand as a candidate for the Elected Presidency to serve Singapore and our people. It was a decision taken after very careful deliberation and after consulting with my family, colleagues and close friends. I am grateful for their support and encouragement.

I am also grateful to the many Singaporeans who have expressed their support for my candidacy when I met them or through emails, SMSes and Facebook. Many have also said that they will pray for me. The EP is a heavy responsibility and apart from its constitutional functions, plays an important role in setting the tone for our society. From President Yusof Ishak's strong imprint of a multi-racial society critical during Singapore's formative years to President Ong Teng Cheong's uplifting of the arts and culture and President SR Nathan's establishment of the President's Challenge, continued by President Tony Tan, to support our needy. They have all shaped and influenced our society for the better. I hope to build upon their good work. Having come from a deprived and disadvantaged background, I strongly believe in access to opportunities for everyone.

I call upon Singaporeans to work together to build a better and stronger society.

Let's focus on our shared core values, not our differences.

There is much good that we can do especially if we do them together.

Let's do good and do it together.

 

Halimah Yacob