7 Things You Never Knew About Halimah Yacob, SG’s First Female Muslim President


Santriani Bohari •  Sep 23, 2017

Earlier this month, Madam Halimah Yacob made history (and international headlines!) by becoming Singapore's very first female Muslim president, and we couldn't be happier ?

Credit: Giphy

Wasting no time, she's already jumped head-first into her new role to much fanfare. But in case you need even more reasons to admire Madam President, here's 7 impressive lesser-known facts about her ?

1. She's a strong advocate of mental health issues

It's no secret that Mdm Halimah has devoted much of her time and energy to supporting various social causes, from women's issues to helping the disadvantaged.

Credit: Yohanna Abdullah on Facebook

That said, she's especially passionate about mental health issues, having served as the patron to Club HEAL (a local mental health organization) for several years.

Fighting to debunk the stigma against persons with mental health issues, Mdm Halimah has even helped to establish two out of three of Club HEAL's rehabilitation centres, and also regularly goes out of her way to help those afflicted ?

2. She's a little claustrophobic

All of us have our own fears, and Madam President is no different: she recently admitted in an interview that she's afraid of small spaces!

Credit: Halimah Yacob on Facebook

In fact, once, when she was on a sleeper train travelling from Geneva to Paris, she was kept awake the whole night because the sleeping space was too small - it left her fearful that the walls would fall onto her.

3. The most difficult period for her was when her mother passed away in 2015

Citing her mother as one of the most influential people in her life, Mdm Halimah went through the saddest moments of her life when her mother passed away on Polling Day in September 2015.

Credit: Stomp on Facebook

After spending the day before by her mother's side, Mdm Halimah had gone to the Polling Centre in Marsiling on the morning of September 11 when she received a call from one of her children informing her of her mother's passing.

Understandably distraught, she spent most of the day privately with her family, overseeing the burial process and subsequently holding a religious ceremony.

Credit: Channel NewsAsia on Facebook

Remarkably, though, she pulled herself together and soldiered on through the day despite her thoughts being in disarray, joining her fellow candidates in greeting the media later that night.

"If my mother was still alive, she would've reminded me of my responsibilities," she said of her decision, adding that it was her mother who has instilled her life's motto in her: "Work hard, don't let failure hold you back, and live moderately."

4. She nearly got expelled from secondary school

No stranger to adversity in her life, much of Mdm Halimah's childhood was spent helping her mother run her food stall when she wasn't occupied with her schoolwork.

Credit: Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC on Facebook

Between attending classes, studying, wiping tables and serving customers, though, exhaustion and fatigue weighed so heavily on her that she started cutting class regularly and almost got expelled for it.

Credit: National University of Singapore on Facebook

Eventually, it was one of her teachers' faith in her that spurred her on when she was told: "You could become someone great. I don't believe that you'll keep failing." The rest, of course, is history ?

5. She wakes up at 5AM and exercises for 45 mins every day

Early to bed, early to rise: Mdm Halimah makes it a point to wake up at 5AM every day, a habit that she says her mother ingrained into her.

Credit: Halimah Yacob on Facebook

In fact, her mother's own motto was: "If you don't wake up before the sun rises, then you're lazy." It's no wonder that Mdm Halimah herself has such an outstanding work ethic!

6. She's been breaking the glass ceiling since she started her career

She made headlines earlier this month upon becoming Singapore's first female Malay-Muslim president, but in all honesty, she's been breaking barriers ever since she started her career.

Credit: Halimah Yacob on Facebook

Not only was she the first Malay-Muslim woman to become a Member of Parliament (MP), she was also the first female to hold the position of Speaker of Parliament.

She even has her very own emoji! 

Undoubtedly, her successes have not come without criticism. When she first took office as an MP, she was regularly asked about who would take care of her children.

Credit: Halimah Yacob on Facebook

Her response: upon gracefully pointing out that none of the male MPs were asked the same question, she stated that taking care of children is not solely a woman's responsibility -- it should be shared equally between husband and wife ?

7. She and her husband had to save up for 8 months to buy their first sofa

Although the First Gentleman remains mostly out of the spotlight, Mdm President has often referred to him as her strongest pillar of support through thick and thin.

Credit: Halimah Yacob on Facebook

University sweethearts who got married two years after graduating, things weren't always easy. The couple waited 5 years before purchasing their first flat together, and another 8 months before they bought their first sofa!

Credit: Halimah Yacob on Facebook

Himself a businessman, the First Gentleman has also been lauded for reversing gender roles when he decided to work from home to take care of the couple's children in support of Mdm Halimah's busy and demanding career.

Between her tireless commitment to social causes, her humility in leading a moderate lifestyle and her sheer resilience in the face of hardship, Madam Halimah continues to inspire us from the bottom of our hearts. We're proud to call her our President! ?