Campaigner dedicated to improving the lives of women
A highly accomplished and respected orthopaedic and hand surgeon, Dr Kanwaljit Soin is a former Nominated Member of Parliament, and an outspoken campaigner dedicated to improving the lives of women.
Kanwaljit topped her medical school class and was awarded the MBBS (Hons) in 1966. She obtained her Master of Medicine (Surgery) from the University of Singapore in 1970, and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Singapore Academy of Medicine.
Her quest to help people extends far beyond hospital consulting rooms and operating theatres. Kanwaljit is a tireless proponent of women’s rights, holding numerous positions in welfare and advocacy organisations.
Her work in civil society began in 1985, when Kanwaljit was a founding member of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). She was AWARE’s President between 1991 and 1993.
Kanwaljit was Singapore’s first female Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) from 1992 to 1996. When selected she announced her constituency included ‘women everywhere’, so it was her duty to question the gender implications of all government policy.
In 1995 she tabled the Family Violence Bill, which was not supported, but its key proposals were later included in amendments to the Women’s Charter. Women’s rights activists consider this work to be Kanwaljit’s greatest contribution to Singapore, resulting in the introduction of Personal Protection Orders for victims of domestic abuse.
Her civil society activities include being the founding chair of the Singapore chapter of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the founding president of Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully” (WINGS). She has also been a president of the Singapore chapter of the International Women’s Forum, and is a Global Ambassador of HelpAge International which works with and for disadvantaged older people all over the world. She has also served, and continues to serve, in various positions in medical professional associations.
Kanwaljit’s work is widely recognised. In 1992 she was named Singapore’s "Woman of the Year". Internationally she is the recipient of the International Women’s Forum’s “Women Who Make a Difference Award”, and a UNIFEM Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2008 she received the Singapore Medical Association Merit Award in recognition of her significant contribution and valuable services to the community and also the “Good Samaritan” Award from the Rotary Club of Singapore.
"Feminism is for both women and men. I define it as equal respect and consideration for the other sex, so it encompasses humanism and social justice and is much broader than just women’s rights."