Arts & Media Category Winner: Rachel Heng, Novelist & Short Story Writer
Having tasted a slew of disappointments as a novice writer in her 20s, Rachel had almost given up on writing altogether by the time she got her big break. Reading an excerpt from her debut novel Suicide Club out loud during a night class at London’s Faber Academy saw her nab publishers in the UK and US that offered her six-figure sums to finish the book.
In another sign of on-going success, Suicide Club was named the most anticipated book of the summer by The Telegraph. It will also be translated into eight languages worldwide. The 30-year-old’s feat makes her the latest Singaporean author to break into the international market, following in the footsteps of Crazy Rich Asians’ Kevin Kwan.
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Design & Style Category Winner: Goh Ling Ling, Founder & Designer, Ling Wu
Hailing from a family of garment manufacturers, you could say that creation is inherently in Ling’s blood. But while she was born into the business of fashion, Ling’s desire to explore her own design aesthetic saw her pursue a diploma in graphic design at LASALLE before graduating from the prestigious Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design in London.
She then started her own label, Ling Wu, almost a decade ago with the aim of creating functional but beautiful bags in sustainably-sourced exotic skins. To date, her designs have been stocked in boutique shops in the US, Australia, France and Japan. As a home-grown brand, Ling, 44, shares that her biggest challenge continues to be growing into other markets with limited financial support.
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Public Service & Education Category Winner: Judith Knight, Founder, Wings Therapy & Learning Centre
When Judith’s middle child, Jake, was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy, global developmental delay, and congenital cataracts at birth, she admits that the revelation sent her “world crashing down”. Instead of resigning herself to her fate, the former public relations manager buckled down to find solutions that would give her son a fighting chance at life instead.
The mother-of-three plunged headlong into researching a field she had little knowledge about and had to travel overseas to find a form of suit therapy that improved Jake’s condition. Aware that many more kids could benefit from it, the 44-year-old set up Wings Therapy and Learning Centre earlier this year with the ultimate aim of fostering a more socially inclusive community for kids with brain development issues.
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Finance & Commerce Category Winner: Christine Lim, Managing Director, San SeSan Global
Christine has the distinction of parlaying a $30,000 acquisition in 2003 into a $12 million global supplier of fast-moving goods today with San SeSan Global. The business-savvy mother-of-one had no prior entrepreneurial background when she bought over San SeSan to start selling nibbles like the ever-popular Tao Kae Noi seaweed snack.
Under the 45-year-old’s watchful eye, the company has grown to become a leading food marketer, importer and distributor that has plans to expand into 30 countries in the near future. Her refusal to give up on the business even when it was bleeding money has seen the home-grown company stock some of Singapore’s best loved snacks and gain 100 per cent coverage in all supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores across the nation.
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Science & Technology Category Winner: Dr Sherry Aw, Independent Fellow, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A*STAR
The rapid rise of our ageing population means the clock is ticking for the healthcare sector to ensure it can cope with diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Enter Dr Sherry Aw, 35, a scientist who is using genetics, molecular and imaging techniques to find the causes and potential treatment for these neurodegenerative diseases.
A mother-of-two who deftly juggles the everyday responsibilities that many working mothers face, Dr Aw is proof that a life in the STEM field isn’t as hostile for women as previously thought. “A career in the Sciences is demanding, but I feel that it’s also less rigid than some other industries, because my lab time is flexible,” she shares. “My husband and I also take turns to carry out our parenting duties.”
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Sports, Health & Wellness Category Winner: Vanessa Paranjothy, Co-Founder, Freedom Cups
“My personal aim is to leave my little corner of the globe in a better state than when I was in it,” confesses Vanessa. She’s doing that and more through her social enterprise Freedom Cups – which she started along with her two sisters – by providing women in underprivileged communities with menstrual cups as an alternative to disposable or cloth pads. Designed after a “buy one, give one” model, Freedom Cups can be reused for up to 12 hours each time, making them ideal for those living in areas with no toilets, electricity or running water.
Her movement has seen Vanessa, 29, pick up the Commonwealth Youth Award for Asia this year, as well as a coveted stint with the Obama Foundation Scholars Program.
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Lancôme Visionary Award Winner: Lynette Tan, Executive Director, Singapore Space & Technology Association
The first female Director of Singapore Space and Technology Association, which was founded in 2007, Lynette takes pleasure in pushing boundaries to expand what humans can achieve. Having enjoyed the sciences from a young age, her passion for space and space technology was fuelled by her studies in the United States, where she pursued a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering as well as a Masters in the same field at Stanford University.
“Singapore embraces innovation so being involved in reaching for the stars naturally resonates for me,” Lynette, 38, shares. Through her work in developing Singapore’s space industry, the go-getting mum of two also hopes to use technology designed for outer space to improve life on our planet.
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Pandora Spirited Woman Award Winner: Major Sylvia Koh, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Pilot, Republic of Singapore Air Force
In 2003, Maj Koh made aviation history as the first female Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilot in the Singapore Air Force. She steers the Heron 1 UAV, which made its public debut at the National Day Parade this year, providing viewers with a bird’s eye view of the festivities. The expert flyer is also UAV Chief Instructor, training the next generation of pilots that will keep our borders safe.
While our army has traditionally been a male-dominated sector, the rise of technology has seen the opening of more roles for women. Even so, Maj Koh, 37, says, “Male or female, the Air Force does not limit one’s opportunities to exhibit their best qualities.”
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The Singapore Women's Weekly's Most Inspiring Woman Award: Rujia Ali Shahul Hameed, Nurse Clinician, Tan Tock Seng Hospital
As a Nurse Clinician from Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Department of Continuing and Community Care, Rujia goes to patients’ homes to provide follow-up healthcare in their own environment. Recognised as an Extraordinary Healthcare Worker at the 2018 Healthcare Humanity Awards, the warm-hearted caregiver often goes beyond her call of duty to care for the underprivileged and elderly.
This has included picking up new languages along the way. Indian by descent, Rujia, 48, learnt to speak Mandarin and various dialects such as Hokkien, so that she could communicate more effectively with her elderly patients, many of whom suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes and arthritis.
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