A strong advocate for workers, women and minorities

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Madam Halimah Yacob with three-month-old Giselle Kong during the "Maybe Baby?" dialogue session held by I Love Children (ILC) on 5 October 2012. Giselle is the daughter of dialogue participant Gillian Neo.

SINGAPORE - Madam Halimah Yacob studied law at the National University of Singapore on a bursary from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

Her Indian-Muslim father was a watchman who died when she was eight years old.

Before school every day, she helped her mother prepare Malay food for sale, to support herself and her four siblings.

When she graduated in 1978, she grabbed the first job offer that came her way and became a legal officer at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

In her 30 years in the labour movement, she earned a reputation for being a unionist with heart. She cemented her reputation with her performance in Parliament after she joined politics in 2001.

She stood out as a brave advocate for workers, women and minorities, impressing with her passion and persistence.

In 2011, she was promoted to the frontbench and is currently Minister of State for Social and Family Development.

Now, the 58-year-old former labour lawyer looks set to make history as the country's first woman Speaker of Parliament.

The role would mean, in terms of state protocol, she sits at the same level as the Chief Justice.

The elevation comes to a woman who once said she never dreamt she would one day work in the NTUC as a labour leader.

From legal officer, the mother of five rose to become NTUC assistant secretary-general.

In 2001, she entered politics as an MP for Jurong GRC.

She was billed as a crowd favourite then, known for her grassroots appeal, unflappable mien, high emotional quotient and independent streak.

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