The focus of the YWCA in the 1980s was on the development for women and girls, camps, pre-school education, senior citizens, fellowship and friendship, world mutual service, hostels and child development.
Discussions began for the formation of a Women’s Council under Mrs Julie Tan in 1978. The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) was formed in 1980 as the umbrella body for women’s organisations, with the aim to promote and improve the status of women. YWCA was one of the founding members and first the President of the SCWO was the President of the YWCA, Mrs Julie Tan.
Besides Mrs Tan, many Board and Committee members from the YWCA were also involved in the formation of the SCWO. The Association was one of the SCWO’s 23 affiliate women organisations at its formation.
The National Office moved to Orchard Plaza at Orchard Road from the rented premises at Colombo Court, having purchased two units in Orchard Plaza.
There was a reorganisation of the Association which was divided by Centres – Jurong Centre, Outram Centre, Fort Canning Centres and Marine Parade Centre. Additional national committees were formed to oversee the operations and expanded activities, namely the International & Community Affairs Committee, Personnel & Training Committee and the Finance Committee.
In the 1980s, the various clubs operating for different interests continued – the Katong Club based at Marine Parade Centre, the YWCA Dancers’ Club, the Blue Triangle Club based at Outram Centre and the International Women’s Club based at the Fort Canning Centre.
At that time, members could participate in activities such as the Thrift Shop, Hostel, Handicraft Group, Children’s Day Camps, Children’s Group, Flag Day, overseas trips, exercise classes, workshops and talks. The annual Volunteers’ Day get together was started to thank volunteers for their services. It has continued to this day.
By 1982, there were nine centres under the YWCA, and our children’s centres became Child Development Centres. These included child development centres in Kampong Java, Marine Parade, West Coast Drive, Ang Mo Kio, Bedok and Clementi.
A new floor was added to the 6-storey hostel Fort Canning Centre due to the demand for the rooms. The Young Musician Society – comprising the Singapore Youth choir and Singapore Chinese Orchestra – was affiliated with the YWCA and had their practicing sessions at the premises.
In 1983, the 25th World YWCA Council meeting was held in Singapore, with emphasis on the issues of environment and energy, peace, education and health. It was the second time that the World Council meeting was held in Asia, the first being in Hangchow, China in 1947.
The meeting was held at the National University of Singapore from 26 October to 16 November in 1983. There were 492 participants from 69 countries, five times more than the participants at the Hangchow meeting in 1947.
A welcome dinner was held in Shangri-La hotel with 800 attendees, and was graced by the presence of Mrs Yeoh Ghim Seng, the wife of the Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore at that time. The attendees were entertained by music from the Singapore Youth Choir and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra as well as a pageant. During the meeting, Mrs Anamah Tan was elected as one of the Vice-Presidents to represent Asia. Tours to the YWCA child development centres were arranged for the meeting’s attendees.
As early as 1984, the YWCA was concerned with issues faced by the elderly, with an ad-hoc Committee set up to study the need to serve the older members of the YWCA. This was the Le Ling, an ad hoc Committee for the Elderly chaired by Mrs Julie Tan. Issues discussed included setting up a day centre for elderly women to engage in hobbies, talks to prepare them for living a fuller life in old age and lunches for those who lived alone.
In April 1985, Mrs Bibi S Williams retired as Executive Director after 15 years of service. Mrs Williams was remembered for her dedication, enthusiasm and love for the Association. She was succeeded by Ms Yang Liu Soo.
The Fort Canning Centre continued to provide meals, hostel and dormitory accommodation to young women living away from home, and it enjoyed 100% occupancy for most of the 80s. Activities were organised for members and hostelites at the centre. Discussions on further developments of the hostel and the centre were initiated by the Board.
In 1987, the government introduced subsidies for working women who wished to put their children in child development centres. This led to the opening of Jurong Child Development Centre and other centres in subsequent years to help the women return to work.
Due to HDB redevelopment, changing policies and reduced demand, the Jurong Kindergarten and Jurong Hostel were closed in 1987. While the YWCA pioneered such services, the needs of society had changed. The leaders of the Association had to evaluate how best to meet emerging needs while halting services that had outlived their usefulness and purpose.
To engage younger members, Youth Ad hoc Committee chaired by Ms Vachila Marimuthu was set up with the goal of getting the young actively involved in all areas of the YWCA.
In 1988, two more child development centres were opened in Jurong East and Serangoon. By this time, all the child development centres were operating at full capacity, with long waiting lists in some locations. The Before and After School Care Programme operating at the Outram Centre also saw increased enrolment. By the end of the 1970s, the child development centres were grouped by; East, North/South, Outram Road and West.
In 1989, the various clubs of YWCA continued to provide programmes for members from the various centres. By this time, the Association had four clubs; the International Women’s Club, Katong Club, Dancers Club and Blue Triangle Club.