Manpower Minister Josephine Teo: I found courage to enter public life because of my mum

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and her mother, Madam Leow Chee Chu (third from right), at yesterday's event at the Home Team Academy. Around 650 officers, volunteer police personnel and retirees were also present at the event to celebrate 70 years of women in policing.
PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo found the courage to enter public life because of her mother, who had served as a police officer for more than 20 years.

Mrs Teo cited her mother's service when she paid tribute to the achievements of female police officers at an event yesterday that celebrated 70 years of women in policing.

She told around 650 officers, volunteer police personnel and retirees gathered at the Home Team Academy that she had learnt first-hand what it takes to be a woman police officer and the sacrifices required by seeing her mother, Madam Leow Chee Chu, go out on duty.

"In truth, it is not easy for women officers to manage career and family," Mrs Teo said.

"Your work often requires sacrifices, such as weekends with loved ones that you cannot be part of or key events at home that you missed because you're on duty."

Madam Leow, 77, had served in radio, traffic, and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) during her time with the Singapore Police Force (SPF). She had also served with the Internal Security Department.

"It was my mother's first and only career... I even remember her doing shift work when we were still living in a one-room flat in Geylang Serai," said Mrs Teo, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs.

"If you have ever wondered where I found the courage to enter public life, look no further than my mother. Her feisty character and resilience must have rubbed off on me.

"Her willingness to sacrifice her own leisure to help me look after my children when they were young was critical. It gave me the peace of mind to focus on work, on service," she added.

"As to what moulded my mother's character, I'm inclined to believe the police and the Old Police Academy had a lot to do with it because when she started her police career, she was not yet 20."

There are now almost 1,800 women officers in the SPF, a far cry from the 10 pioneers, including Ms Mary Quintal, who started police training in 1949.

"Mary excelled in a field traditionally dominated by men. Without Mary Quintal and (her) other colleagues, who formed that Magnificent 10 you could say, and the other trailblazers that came after them, we might not have the privilege of a woman heading our CID today," Mrs Teo said.

She added that female officers now undergo the same training and are deployed alongside their male counterparts in every police unit except the Gurkha contingent.

The SPF's high-fliers now include Ms Florence Chua, named the first female deputy commissioner and concurrent director of CID last year, and Ms Zuraidah Abdullah, who in 2013 became the first female senior assistant commissioner.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.