1st female president for S'pore Rotary Club

1st female president for S'pore Rotary Club
One upcoming project involves helping incarcerated women maintain ties with their children. Mrs Tiro says: "We want to address some of the issues faced by women because they are often not given this focus."

SINGAPORE - When the Rotary Club of Singapore first opened its doors to female members in 1999, some men opposed the move and threatened to quit.

The leadership stood by its decision and women were finally allowed to join the club, part of a worldwide network of professionals who serve the community through humanitarian aid projects.

Last Saturday, the 84-year-old club marked another milestone by swearing in its first female president, Mrs Perlita Tiro.

At the installation ceremony at Marina Mandarin Singapore, the 70-year-old said in her acceptance speech: "Why am I here? At my age, I have to go for medical examinations every three years before I can continue to drive.

"I should retire and relax completely, having worked since I was 19 years old. The reason is... I am duty-bound to share my blessings with others be it time, talent or treasures."

The Philippines-born Singapore citizen started working after graduating with a degree in business administration at the age of 18, a relatively young age as she had skipped kindergarten.

The accountancy major joined a big accounting firm in the Philippines in the research and training department and worked in her country of birth until 1970, when she was posted here for work.

She met her husband Robert Tiro, an Indonesian who was a lecturer in the business administration department of the National University of Singapore, and they married in 1971. They decided to remain here and set up human resource consultancy Tiro Consulting Services in 1989. Mrs Tiro ran this until March when she retired.

In 2000, just a year after women were allowed into the Rotary Club of Singapore, the oldest and biggest here with about 140 members, Mrs Tiro was invited to join the club.

Since then, she has been involved with projects ranging from relief work in the Philippines after the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan to efforts to help rehabilitate local drug offenders.

The past 14 years with the club has left a deep impression on her. She recalls meeting an 18-year-old in the Philippines who was so malnourished that he looked to be about 10 years old. He was given financial help.

Another boy had a facial deformity where skin was torn from the middle of his eyebrows to his mouth. Through the club's funding, he was able to have plastic surgery.

"He could not go to school because he was very shy and embarrassed. After the surgery, he could finally go to school," recalled Mrs Tiro, who has a daughter, who lives in the United States with her son-in-law, and two grandchildren.

Last year, Mrs Tiro visited countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and India to ensure the club's initiatives were going smoothly.

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