Meet The Winners

From healthcare to technology, this year’s cohort of winning women are changing the world as we know it with their smarts, hard work and unwavering dedication to uplifting others.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel


Dr Sherry Aw, Independent Fellow at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

By 2060, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 14 million people would have Alzheimer’s or a related memory disease. The devastating neurodegenerative disease is the third leading cause of death in Singapore, and caring for the surviving sufferers can cost up to hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s why the work of Dr Sherry Aw, who deals with neurodegenerative diseases at A*STAR, is more important than ever. “The prevalence of these diseases increases with age so it’s a big problem in developed countries like Singapore,” says the Harvard Medical School alum, who picked up the award for her research in protecting the human brain from ageing. “I was very surprised at winning the award and I’m extremely honoured because the other nominees in my category are outstanding,” says the scientist. “I’d like to thank the judges and The Weekly for giving me this award and I hope to be able to live up to this great title.” For other women scientists looking to walk in her footsteps, Dr Sherry has this advice to share: “Don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask questions and learn as much as you can.”

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Rachel Heng, Novelist & Short Story Writer

For someone who says she’s obsessed with death, Rachel Heng’s debut novel Suicide Club brings the topic of immortality to life. Her words dance on the page as she builds a dystopian world for us where the surgically-enhanced participants engage in an on-going quest to live forever, which wowed the judges when it came time to choosing an Arts & Media winner this year. “I feel really honoured even to have been nominated, let alone to have actually won!” says Rachel, who is based in the US. “There are so many Singaporean women doing exciting, inspiring things in their respective fields, it’s such a thrill to see them highlighted and recognised for their efforts.” The original story by the author has made waves internationally and has already been translated into 10 languages worldwide since its debut over the summer. It’s a major milestone for the first-time novelist who almost gave up on writing altogether. “A writer’s life is usually full of rejection, so winning this award is really encouraging to me,” Rachel reveals, adding, “I hope it will inspire other emerging writers in some small way.”

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Judith Knight, Founder, Wings Therapy And Learning Center

Many parents are often reluctant to talk about the challenges they face raising children with brain injuries, but not Judith Knight, whose son was diagnosed with multiple injuries as a result of hypoxic birth trauma. Not only did the mum-of-three aim to start a dialogue with other families who have special needs children, she also wanted to offer solutions to their predicament. With this in mind she opened Wings Therapy and Learning Center – Singapore’s first intensive physical therapy centre that provides specialised programmes for children, youths and young adults to gain independence and potentially avoid painful surgeries. “I am not only honoured but proud to be part of a community of women that serve to empower, celebrate and inspire other women,” says Judith. “It’s a powerful platform for women to celebrate their achievements and more importantly, shape future generations.” Moving forward, Judith hopes to be able to bring the message of inclusivity and equality; if not limitless opportunities, for children and adults with special needs.

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Christine Lim, Managing Director, San SeSan Global

Like a river that needs to flow and ebb, Christine Lim hates staying stagnant. It’s why her company, San SeSan Global, has managed to stay relevant in the very crowded Fast-Moving Consumer Goods space. While her stable of brands, which includes popular snack Tao Kae Noi, is well-established and the company brings in profits that amount to millions, the mother-of-one has not rested on her laurels. “Developing new flavours is something we have to keep doing because consumers are fickle,” says Christine. “They expect something different and new all the time. The only way to keep up is to innovate.” It’s no coincidence then that her company name means “Growing with Time” when translated from Chinese. “Many times in the past when I struggled and failed, I was certain I was stupid to have given up a promising career for an uncertain business life. I even postponed starting my own family for more than a decade,” Christine explains. “Today, I feel that my perseverance has paid off. I am even more motivated to strive towards greatness.” After being in business for more than 15 years, San SeSan Global is moving onto its next phase of expansion and Christine hopes the company can go from strength to strength.

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Vanessa Paranjothy, Co-Founder, Freedom Cups

Sustainable, reusable, environmentally-friendly period products make us jump for joy and Freedom Cups stands out from other offerings on the market because they operate on a “buy one, give one” scheme. This little benefit allows them to freely distribute their silicone cups to women in under-privileged communities – a feat that led to Vanessa Paranjothy’s victory in this category. Of her win, Vanessa had this to share, “It feels great to be part of the Great Women Of Our Time family. I continually imagine how different and beautiful a new world order that sees many more women as heads of state and industry would be. This award, and the amazing women who are highlighted by it, gives me a glimpse into that world of the future, and it fills me with hope.” Vanessa adds she sees her win as a vote of confidence and validation that the work she does is something that the world needs and appreciates. “The award also belongs to my fellow nominees, Cassandra (Chiu) and Rujia (Ali Shahul Hameed),” says the humble entrepreneur. “It’s women like these – everyday heroes who go above and beyond to help others out of the sheer goodness of their hearts – that strengthen my resolve to help people in need.”

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Goh Ling Ling, Founder & Head Designer, Ling Wu

Singapore’s trove of local designers are a revered bunch who push the creative boundaries of what our Little Red Dot has to contribute to the world. One of these people is Goh Ling Ling, who helms luxury bag company, Ling Wu. Her steadfast belief in her ability to provide stylish handbags that are also functional and affordable for the modern Asian woman lead to her triumph. “This recognition is another good example of the great support for Singapore designers. I especially appreciate this indication of approval in my field of work,” says Ling. “This is clearly one of the most significant events of my professional career. I will do my best to merit this recognition.” She adds that while she was surprised and delighted by the win, she’s also humbled to join the ranks of the Great Women Of Our Time alumna whom have all made important contributions to the country. “I think a great woman is someone who is nurturing and caring – a woman who can balance her different roles and responsibilities in life; someone who influences and challenges the world around her,” she says. “So, to be placed among these ranks is truly an honour.”

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Rujia Ali Shahul Hameed, Senior Nurse Manager, Centre for Continuing and Community Care, Tan Tock Seng Hospital

Tears flowed as the announcement for the Most Inspiring Woman was made at the Great Women of Our Time 2018 Awards Presentation and Cocktail Night, and they belonged to Rujia Ali Shahul Hameed. The senior nurse manager was overcome with emotion as her name was called and she received a plaque for her role in providing at-home care for the elderly and underprivileged in Singapore. “Just being nominated for these awards in itself was already encouraging enough, but to actually win makes my long days and sometimes gruelling work even more worthwhile,” she explains. “It’s so wonderful to be honoured for what is essentially my passion. I’ve been working in nursing since 1993, but not because I wanted to win awards. I just did it because I felt passionate about helping others, so I feel very blessed to know that I’m seen as an inspiration to others.” The Most inspiring Woman winner was voted by readers.

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Lynette Tan, Executive Director, Singapore Space & Technology Association (SSTA)

A 2012 UNESCO report found that women remain underrepresented in science in every region of the world. A likely cause for this is female disengagement with an industry that is traditionally overrun by men. Lynette Tan, as the first female executive director of the Singapore Space & Technology Association (Stem), is a beacon of hope. “Winning the Lancôme Visionary Award not only serves as an endorsement for what I have done, it also provides me an excellent and established platform to bring the message of ‘realising dreams’ to a wider audience,” says Lynette. When asked what her win means for women working in the Sciences, the pioneer had this to share, “The Great Women Of Our Time is a meaningful initiative and an opportune time to remind us of what all women can achieve.”

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Major Sylvia Koh, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Pilot, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)

Women who have changed the course of history are those who dare to take the first plunge into the unknown. At age 23, Major Sylvia Koh did just that and she emerged as Singapore’s first female Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilot in the RSAF. Her unparalleled courage in serving her country has made an impact that cannot be overlooked. “I feel extremely honoured to have won this award. It definitely caught me by surprise,” says Major Koh. “Certainly, this is an encouragement to me and I will continue to put in my best to live life to the fullest.” The gutsy warrior adds that she is in awe of the other women whom she can now call her family and hopes the awards will encourage others to excel and push boundaries in their own fields.

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