To this day, the diplomatic scene remains largely male-dominated. A UN report highlighted that while women are often actively engaged in mediation processes at community levels, their expertise is often overlooked when it comes to formal, high-level peace initiatives.
As one of the few female voices in the room, Ye-Min agrees that “more women need to be part of the peace table”. After all, women are often the ones who are disproportionately affected by conflicts. “Sometimes, a woman can change up the dynamic – especially when it’s among a group of men with arms – by addressing a different viewpoint to the discussions,” she points out.
Of course, having more women in the room can’t simply be a symbol of tokenism, says Ye- Min. “There’s a difference here: are they simply diminished to a role of producing the papers and typing meeting notes or are they the ones who are at the table, negotiating and mediating?”
She underscores the value of mentorship when it comes to adding more female voices in the space. “When I volunteered at UN Women after college, I got to know three amazing women leaders: Melissa Kwee from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, Claudine Lim from AIDHA, and Saleemah Ismail from New Life Stories. I found my voice through seeing them do what they do, and through their mentoring and advice.” For this reason, it’s important for her to pay it forward. She does so through mentoring youths, whom she firmly believes can create change.
Her passion for empowering the younger generation was sparked when she first stumbled across a relief teaching role at Raffles Girls School (RGS), where she had graduated from. “I studied international relations for college at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, but when I returned back to Singapore, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do straightaway. I was passing by RGS, and I thought I could head in to check if there were open positions for relief teachers whilst I figured out my next steps.”
The school did, in fact, have open positions, and Ye-Min ended up becoming a contract teacher for two years. While she eventually left for a role in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she still enjoys teaching students.
These days, she often conducts talks and workshops on negotiation and leadership in diplomacy for the youths to share wisdom she’s accrued over the years with the rising generation of talent. “I believe in helping others to reach their potential and grow to do what they want to do. Additionally, by putting better negotiators at the table, we can produce better outcomes.”
By putting better negotiators at the table, we can produce better outcomes.