Lawyer and women’s rights activist
Dr. Anamah Tan is a lawyer specialising in family law and a women’s rights activist. In 1974 she was, together with seven others, a founder member of the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers (SAWL). The association aims to raise legal literacy among the community, particularly the under-privileged and women in blue-collar jobs in Singapore.
As a women’s right lobbyist, Anamah has campaigned against gender discrimination, and in particular, calling for better protection for women from domestic violence.
Born to a Chinese family, Anamah was adopted by parents of Ceylonese heritage. She went to St. Margaret’s Girls School and completed her A levels at Bartley Secondary School. In 1963, she graduated with LLB (Honours) and was called to the Singapore Bar. Her first job was as a legal officer with the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
Through her career spanning over 50 years, she has served in leadership positions in many women’s councils and ministerial committees on community and family projects. In 1980, Anamah was a founder member of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations and served as its president from 1991 to 2000. She was also president of the ASEAN Confederation of Women’s Organisations from 2000 to 2002, having served it in various positions since 1992.
In 2004, Anamah successfully sought a seat on the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW). The committee, comprising 23 gender experts on women’s issues from around the world, monitors the progress made by countries that are party to the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Anamah was the first, and so far only, Singaporean to be elected to the committee.
The UN CEDAW committee reviews reports submitted by the governments as well as by women’s groups on the state of women in each country, and it makes recommendations on the issues that it believes need more attention.
She has received several awards including the Singapore National Medal for Community Work in 1993 for helping women and the underprivileged, and a Public Service Star for community work in 1998.
"... if there is to be a sea change in attitude on gender discrimination, we have to raise the consciousness in the minds of not just the women and girls but also, just as importantly, the men and boys, on the need to eliminate such discrimination."