Julie Tan Eng Poh
Founder of the first and only credit union for women in Singapore
Julie Tan was a dedicated champion of women’s rights, serving not just one, but three women’s organisations. She led, at various times, the Young Women Christian Association’s (YWCA), the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), and D.E.W Credit Cooperative, which was her brainchild.
At the YWCA, which she led for eight years and was its longest-serving president, Julie initiated leadership programmes and activities that provided opportunities for the advancement of women. Understanding the needs of working mothers, she helped set up the first YWCA child care centre at Marine Parade in 1977.
Believing strongly that women should have economic independence, Julie made it her life’s work to help bring this about. A key effort was the establishment, in July 1981, of the D.E.W Credit Cooperative. This was the only credit union established for women by women in Singapore. Apart from providing loans to members on reasonable terms, it aimed to equip women with the knowledge and skills for effective money management.
Julie was, as the representative of the YWCA, one of the founding members of SCWO and its first president. The idea of an umbrella body to bring together the many small women’s organisations was first mooted in 1978. After more than a year of discussions and planning, the SCWO was set up in 1980 and Julie was elected as president.
In 1989, Julie was appointed a Justice of the Peace. She served on a number of committees and advisory councils including the National Advisory Board for the Disabled.
“Real life is working, saving, investing for the future, and taking responsibility for our finances and being able to choose our life and career paths.
SCWO should re-focus on the paths our younger women are taking and may have to re-design its programs to suit changing needs.
Family life should be maintained and women are always the foundation stone.”