Yu-Foo Yee Shoon
Trade unionist and first woman mayor
Yu-Foo Yee Shoon twice made history in Singapore politics. In 1984 she was one of the three women to be elected as Members of Parliament, ending the House’s 14-year dearth of women. And in 2001 she became the first woman mayor when she was appointed to lead the South West Community Development Council.
The daughter of a Chinese immigrant, Yee Shoon attended Nanyang Girls’ High School, and in 1971 obtained a Bachelor of Commerce from Nanyang University. She began her career as a senior industrial relations officer with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). Over three decades she rose through the ranks of the NTUC, holding numerous senior positions including being its Vice-President, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General.
A trailblazer for women in the trade union movement as well as in politics, Yee Shoon was the first female to chair the NTUC Central Committee. The passionate union leader also initiated the founding of NTUC Childcare and NTUC Foodfare.
Throughout her career Yee Shoon has sat on the boards of a range of co-operatives, listed companies and statutory boards including the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore Telecommunications, NTUC Insurance Co-operative (INCOME), NTUC Fairprice and NTUC Childcare.
In 1997 the Singapore National Co-operative Federation awarded Yee Shoon the Rochdale Award for her contributions to the labour and co-operative movements. A year earlier, Yee Shoon obtained a Master of Business from Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
In 1999 Yee Shoon was appointed Senior Parliamentary Secretary in the then Ministry of Community Development, and in 2004 she became Minister of State in the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.
Over the years Yee Shoon has always promoted the development of family, children and young people. She has also been an advocate of care for the elderly. She was the founding Chairwoman of Community Care Foundation (ComCare) and while she was in this role, ComCare distributed $300 million to 200,000 needy families and individuals.
In 2005 Yee Shoon received the Alumni Achievement Award from NTU and in 2008 she was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Education by Wheelock College in Boston, USA. Yee Shoon remained a Member of Parliament (MP) until retiring in 2011, making her the nation’s longest serving female politician.
Yee Shoon was Her World magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1995.
"We need to find a balance between man’s and woman’s duties. Many of us feel that it is a partnership. Both parties should play the role; otherwise some women might not want to come forward to play the role. Therefore, man and woman both have to communicate and know who does what, and who does what better, and how to share and build up the family."