Member of Parliament Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency Joan Cheng Sim Pereira is a force to reckon with. Ms Pereira isn’t just your regular MP. She’s a mother of two young adult daughters and a wife to a businessman in the shipping industry. She’s one of our power women for Women’s Month.
Ms Pereira has been a champion for families and for the elderly for quite some time now. Ours is an ever-changing world. In Singaporean society, the issues of the aging members are a growing concern. This is why it’s good to have someone such as Ms. Pereira around.
A brief backgrounder
As a young girl, Joan Pereira was a student at both the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus and the Catholic Junior College. Afterward, she went on to get her Bachelor of Arts degree at the National University of Singapore. As a student, she was part of the NUS Catholic Students’ Society.
Ms Pereira speaks glowingly of her time in university. She said this to The Ridge magazine last year: “NUS gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams and empowered me with the necessary tools to find my way in whichever path that I chose to take. The learning does not stop at university education. In fact, it is really only the beginning of many lessons that I have learned throughout my career.”
Deep Roots in Community Work
The Tanjong Pagar MP has deep roots in community work. She managed programs for the community at Queenstown Community Centre more than 25 years ago.
Her deep desire to help the elderly is evident. From 2007 to 2015, she implemented the Wellness Programme in more than 80 communities. Elderly residents were encouraged to stay healthy and fit. This program also emphasized how important keeping their social ties strong within their communities.
She told Yahoo a few years ago, “Having served people all my working life, I believe in the benefits of strong bonds. When deep bonds are formed among families and neighbours, they look out for one another. They share one another’s joys and challenges, resulting in strong families, a strong community and a strong Singapore.”
Ms Pereira worked as the director of Family Life and Active Ageing at the People’s Association. Later on, she became the assistant general manager at Temasek Cares, the philanthropic arm of Temasek Holdings. This is Singapore’s sovereign fund, which Temasek Holdings established in 2009.
Serving the Elderly
Last year, Ms Pereira explained why she was so passionate about helping the elderly. “I subscribe to the belief that family is an important building block of our society. Taking care of our elderly, whether they are our grandparents or are single elderly living alone, is a natural extension of this perspective. Only by respecting and caring for the generations before us can we build up strong family values and bonds. And this is what will make us a caring and nurturing society. In my previous role championing family life and active ageing at the People’s Association, I have had the opportunity to spearhead and support programmes all over Singapore. This gave me a national-level perspective on our population’s needs and about effective utilisation of resources to achieve social outcomes.”
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Celebrating Women’s Month with Joan Pereira
In celebration of International Women’s Month all over the world, we asked Joan Pereira about the status of women in Singapore today.
TNS: All month long we are celebrating Women’s History Month, who do you admire most and why?
Joan Pereira: I admire my mother the most. To many of us, our mothers are the women that we admire the most in our lives because we see first-hand, on a daily basis, the sacrifices that they have had to make, the never-ending demands of taking care of the family while juggling work, and the struggles that they have gone through. Therefore, I truly admire my mother’s steely determination and selfless love in keeping our family and home in order.
TNS note: Ms. Pereira’s admiration for her mother was evident in an interview she gave last year. She said, “My mother is one of my most important role models – as she has taken good care of us while we were growing up and now continues to shower her grandchildren with unconditional love. She insists on being very independent at her age of close to 80 and loves all of us in her own quiet ways. She is the kind of mother that I have modelled myself after.”
TNS: Has sexism ever personally affected you in your career trajectory? If so, could you tell our readers a little about it?
Joan Pereira: I don’t think I have experienced sexism in my professional career. However, I do wish to share about the responsibilities of childbearing and caregiving that fall to women. I myself have 2 daughters, and I must acknowledge that it could be difficult for me to juggle both family and career at times. I am very thankful that I have my husband and the grandparents who have helped out, and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of family support.
We have pushed for greater support for caregivers in Parliament this year. We hope that this will also help many working mothers as well.
TNS: In terms of equality, where are women in Singapore today?
Joan Pereira: Women in Singapore do enjoy a substantial level of equality, in terms of rights. That being said, while there is equality, there still exists a pay gap in the workforce between men and women. We still need to work harder on having more women in our companies’ senior management teams and on boards. This is something that we still aspire to do and there are other developed nations which are ahead of us in this aspect.
TNS: What would you consider as women’s biggest victory in this country in our recent history?
Joan Pereira: I think the biggest victory is also our biggest concern as well. Our women are really superhumans who readily take on both family and work responsibilities, and are willing to sacrifice their careers for the sake of their families.
TNS: Any pro-women initiatives you’re doing that we can help spread the word about?
Joan Pereira: Not a specific pro-women initiative, but I have always been advocating for pro-family policies, and pro-family initiatives will definitely benefit women as well.
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