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The institutionalised historiography of Singapore with regards to their leaders is limited to the well-known "founding fathers" namely, Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee, S Rajaratnam, Toh Chin Chye, Lim Kim San, David Marshall, Devan Nair, Ong Pang Boon and Othman Wok.1. Thus, this shows that the current perspective is patriarchal, ethnically bounded and limited as it does not include female leaders who contributed to the development of Singapore leading to its independence.
This research effort is an assessment of Che Zahara Noor Mohamed, a pioneer Singaporean activist for women's rights, from the establishment of the Malay Women Welfare Association (MWW A) in 1947 to the time of her passing in 1962. This research will also highlight the significance of her figure being unrecognised in the mainstream narrative of Singapore's history. The purpose is to create an awareness whereby there are women figures, such as Che Zahara, during the colonial period who played an integral role in the shaping of present-day Singapore.
The aim of this research is to produce an assessment of Che Zahara's contributions to Singapore and the impact it had on the society. This relies upon both English and Malay newspapers, information from the Malay Heritage Centre, published books, official documents from the Singapore National Archives, websites, a published video-recording of an irtterview about Che Zahara as well as an oral interview with the granddaughter of Che Zahara, Rita Zahara Birtte Haji Mohamed Nazeer.
With the assessment gathered, it was then compared with the leaders featured in the past and current History and Social Studies textbooks used in Singapore's primary and secondary schools. A quantitative and qualitative analysis was done in order to better understand the historiography of Singapore's featured and recognised leaders. The analysis shows that the historiography has been highly patriarchal and the majority of featured leaders were Chinese. Thus, it marginalises and make invisible contributions of prominent individuals coming from minority groups and consequently, limiting the learning and exposure of students to prominent individuals who do not fall into the characteristics of the dominant narrative.
As such, Che Zahara, a Malay woman, naturally does not fit into the current historiography. With this in mind, history is about selection but it is also about power and change.2 Since textbooks are used by students for learning, it is important to provide a more balanced and nuanced narrative and one of the ways is to include Che Zahara in the curriculum. Hence, this research effort hopes for a re-examination of the historiography of recognised leaders who had contributed to the development of Singapore to include more women from the different racial groups.
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checked on Apr 19, 2021
checked on Apr 19, 2021
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