Read these extracts from an article published on ST some time ago, just after Ms Lee Li Lian’s historic win at Punggol East SMC under the Workers’ Party banner, to know how much of an inspiration she can be, to anyone out there:
“She hopes to eradicate “stigma” in many forms. She yearns to illustrate that N-level students can make it, that joining the opposition is no longer a career-killer, and that a woman of reproductive age is not a workplace liability but, given support, can juggle it all.
“She hopes people’s takeaway from Punggol East 2013 is the “power of unity”.
“Together, everyone can achieve more. I hope the takeaway for Singaporeans is the power of their votes, that they do have a say in the future and direction of their country,” says the financial institution trainer in her first one-on-one interview unchaperoned by party bigwigs.
“Then adds: “I think Singaporeans also realise that there’s no perfect and ideal candidate who fits everything. What matters most, in my opinion, is to have someone with the heart to serve and the ability to relate to Singaporeans.”
“Having come from the Normal (Academic) stream, where students are told they “can’t do well in life”, she wants her progeny to walk tall and enjoy “equal opportunities” in education and work.
“She rated herself “slightly above average” and was devastated to be posted to the Normal (Academic) stream in secondary school. Her first thought was for her parents – that it would “make them lose face”. Plus, studying one more year would be a further financial “burden” on them.
“Eventually, she did well enough to study business administration at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
“She went on to complete a distance-learning degree in marketing with Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, largely paying her own way, except for her fees which her parents helped out with.
“Two years later, she met her “introverted” husband at a sales seminar.
They went out for seven years before tying the knot in 2010. He took her, then a first-time voter, to her first WP rally during GE 2006.
She says she was wowed by the hordes who came despite having to wipe mud off their footwear later. They both volunteered to be polling agents at Aljunied GRC, and she joined WP as a member shortly after “to give back to society because there are others who didn’t get the opportunities I was lucky enough to get”.
“I also wanted to get rid of the stigma that by associating with opposition, you cannot get your flat, your children will be disadvantaged, your career will be over,” says the Upper Serangoon condominium dweller.
Two months later, in August 2006, she became the WP Youth Wing organising secretary.
“There were no repercussions on the job front either. She has worked in financial advisory, brokerage, recruitment and training with top companies here.
In 2008, she told her prospective employer, Great Eastern Life Assurance, that she was a WP committee member. They made her an offer the very next week.
She never missed a promotion. When she ran as a candidate in GE 2011, her “very supportive” bosses and colleagues helpfully covered her duties.
She now lives by this simple dictum, which governs all her interactions: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.””