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Speech by SUSS Chancellor Mdm Halimah Yacob at the PAVE 25th Anniversary Dinner

Dr Serene Ng, President of PAVE
Dr Sudha Nair, Executive Director of PAVE
Board members, staff of PAVE
Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to officiate at PAVE's 25th anniversary. It is truly remarkable to witness the evolution of this social service organisation, which originated as a ground-up initiative by community-based social workers in the 1990s — an organisation that addresses the needs of survivors, perpetrators, and children affected by violence.

2. Today, PAVE is a leader and trailblazer in the field of domestic violence in Singapore. Their quiet advocacy over 18 years has led to the amendment of The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) in 2019, a significant contribution benefiting the residents of Singapore.

3. Congratulations to the resilient staff of PAVE for their unwavering dedication and never-say-die attitude. This exemplifies a harmonious two-way communication between civil society and the government, a testament to PAVE's tagline, “It’s About Respect”.

4. The video we just watched underscores PAVE’s commitment to addressing issues of violence and helping families move forward. I applaud the staff for developing an integrated model of practice that, in its early stages, shows promising results.

5. I also want to express gratitude to PAVE for addressing the issue of Body Safety, Protective Behaviours and Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse — an issue which I wholeheartedly support.

Launching an app to empower children against child sexual abuse

6. As a community, we must adopt a proactive approach as early as possible to prevent heart-wrenching situations where children as young as three or four silently suffer sexual abuse for years. According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development Child Protective Service’s 2021 statistics, Singapore registered an 11-year high in overall child abuses, including child sexual abuse. The rise in the number of cases in 2021 is due to an increase in referrals from the Child Protective Service’s partners in the community and members of the public becoming more aware of family violence.

7. More can be done. We must take steps to make children aware early that sexual abuse is a violation they must reveal, even before they go through the sexual awareness programme in Primary 5. This will help to reduce the years of suffering they endure, very often at the hands of trusted family members.

8. Today, I am pleased to launch a new learning resource to address this issue. Co-developed by PAVE and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), the Garden of Safety mobile game application will be an innovative resource for young children aged four to nine, with the support of parents, childcare educators and caregivers, to respond effectively when their safety is threatened.

9. The game app will complement the Garden of Safety video, which I also supported and launched last August during my presidency.

10. As Chancellor of SUSS, I am delighted with this collaboration between SUSS and PAVE. This project resonates deeply with our university’s mission to promote social good through purposeful continuous learning, applied research and impactful partnerships.

11. I commend SUSS’ UniLearn team for its proactive approach in joining forces with PAVE on this vital initiative. I thank SUSS President Professor Tan Tai Yong for recognising its potential to benefit the most vulnerable members of Singaporean society. This connection between SUSS and the community not only advances an important cause but solidifies our reputation as a university that impacts lives.

12. Furthermore, this collaboration underscores PAVE’s role as a connector with community groups, amplifying their impact. PAVE’s collaboration with MSF, ECDA, SINDA, Project Dian and religious organisations to reach every child in school and the community is commendable. I encourage you to continue partnering with more organisations to engage in meaningful work that allows you to focus on your core services while impacting a larger community through upstream efforts.

13. I would like to thank everyone here also, donors, partners and supporters. I know a lot of family members here would have benefited from PAVE’s programmes. I’m really happy to see you there and your journey towards having a better life, away from violence. I think that’s really something very meaningful, very heartfelt and very important. Of course, I will not end without recognising Sudha’s work. I have known Sudha for many years, and I’ve always been impressed by her dedication and passion for promoting non-violence in our society, especially among families. Reading the newspapers in the last few days, few weeks, few months, I feel very disturbed. There are a lot of such cases coming out. It is disturbing for those of us who are really concerned about child safety and abuse at home because a lot of these things happen with trusted members of the family, where a child feels safe and comfortable, and then that safety and comfort is violated. So, I think it’s really timely that we have this mobile app game so that we not just teach the parents and adults, but we also go directly to the children so that they can protect themselves; they know what to look out for, what is right, what is wrong, what adults can do and cannot do with them.

14. On this note, let me once again express my gratitude to the staff of PAVE for their steadfast commitment to the cause. Your professionalism, passion and belief in your mission make your work profoundly impactful.

15. Happy 25th anniversary! Thank you.

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