Creating a More Equal Singapore for Children

December 2019

In the film INequality, two youth – Chin Wei and Nisha – who come from contrasting socioeconomic backgrounds tell their unique stories, showing how unfair experiences can cut across classes.

The narrative, developed by three Singapore Children’s Society centres and produced by Cloudy South Productions, was based on interviews with 25 children and youth about fairness and equality.

The film was specially created for the 4th Singapore Children’s Forum. This year’s theme, “Why is it sometimes not fair?”, builds on last year’s Singapore Children’s Society Lecture, “Growing up in an Unequal Society”. It sought to flesh out the issue from the perspective of young people, and was the basis for the panel discussion.

Over 200 educators, parents and students attended the event, held at the SMU Mochtar Riady Auditorium on 30 November 2019. Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, and Education was the Guest-of-Honour.

Inequality was a fitting theme given that it is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), said Ms Tan Khiaw Ngoh, Chairman of the Society’s Social Work Service Standing Committee. The UNCRC is the most widely ratified international treaty, and was signed by Singapore in 1995.

“An important pillar of the UNCRC is child participation — providing a space to hear the voices of children and youth,” she said in her welcome address, pointing to how Singapore created the Singapore Children’s Forum in 2013 to alternate with the ASEAN Children’s Forum, and keep the conversation going. 

The panel discussion included the following participants: 
  • Ms Kong Kum Peck, Director of ComCare and the Social Support Division, Social Policy and Services Group, Ministry of Social and Family Development
  • Dr Irene Ng, Associate Professor of Social Work and Director of the Social Service Research Centre, National University of Singapore
  • Mr Zheng Liren, Social Work Lecturer at the School of Health and Social Sciences, Nanyang Polytechnic
  • Ms Loh Lai Sum, Social Worker, Yishun Family Service @ Children’s Society
  • Qalishya, a 15-year-old member from our youth drop-in centre, VOX @ Children’s Society 
While the discussion touched on a range of topics, key themes that emerged included the universal need for love, a sense of belonging, and positive self-esteem, whatever a child’s background.
Inclusion also featured highly, especially given a simulation exercise attendees were unknowingly subjected to. Before the event, selected attendees were treated to expedited registration by staff on iPad and ushered to have refreshments while others were left waiting. The Forum also deliberately featured complex vocabulary that some participants would find less accessible than others.
The exercise served to demonstrate how small gestures allow inequality to seep into everyday interactions, a sentiment echoed by one audience member during the Q&A, when she pointed out how social activities do not always consider the issue of affordability for everyone in a group.
It goes to show that while many might feel out of their depth tackling a complex social issue like inequality, conscientious day-to-day decisions can help bridge gaps, said panel moderator Ms Lin Xiaoling, who is from the Society’s Research and Advocacy Department.
“I hope everyone keeps in mind the stories shared, and thinks about the small steps one can take.”  
Click here to read the story in Chinese.


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