Today Google revealed its latest Doodle, which celebrates Che Zahara binte Noor Mohamed, a Malay activist who founded Singapore’s first Muslim women’s welfare organisation, the May Women’s Welfare Association (MWWA) in 1947. The Doodle has also been released today, on 15 October, to commemorate the day of a historic public rally Che Zahara organised in response to the Marriage Bill of 1950, which took place on 15 October, 1950.
Born in Singapore in 1907, Che Zahara binte Noor Mohamed was married to a businessman who was a strong supporter of social welfare. Motivated by her conscience and encouraged by her husband, she began caring for poor and destitute women and orphans. Che Zahara continued her work during the Second World War, which left many women and children without homes.
A firm believer in the value of education, Che Zahara opened her home and provided women and children with education, as well as shelter and basic care. In 1947, she requested for a $500,000 donation from the government, which led to the establishment of the MWWA at her home.
In August 1950, the Marriage Bill was introduced, which looked to restrict marriages to parties aged 16 years and above; however, this bill was amended to exclude its implementation upon Muslims. As a result, Che Zahara was galvanised into action and organised the historic public rally of 15 October 1950. While the meeting failed to remove the amendment of the bill, it was a significant step forward for women to voice their concerns publicly and make themselves heard.
Subsequently, in 1955, Che Zahara represented Singapore at the World Congress of Mothers in Switzerland, and worked closely with the Singapore Council of Women to help establish the Women’s Charter of Singapore, which is a legislative landmark that continues to protect the rights of Singaporean women and girls to this day. Her lifelong work was built upon the belief that education could empower people and lift them out of poverty. She educated hundreds of women and orphans from all walks of life.
“Che Zahara was a pioneer in the pursuit of women’s rights in Singapore. She, and the other women who in 1952 formed the Singapore Council of Women, challenged the discriminatory laws and policies and the deeply entrenched norms and mindsets that kept women in subordinate and secondary positions and roles in society,” said Margaret Thomas, Chair of the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame, which is an initiative of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations.
“It was in large part because they pushed so hard for change that the Women’s Charter came about in 1961, banning polygamy for non-Muslims and giving women and men equal status in marriage. Che Zahara was amongst the first women that we inducted to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame. They were visionary, courageous, and determined women, and what they did opened the way for generations of women after them.”
“With Che Zahara organising the historic public rally on this very day 71 years ago, Google recognises the significant impact she has made in Singapore to progress women and children’s rights,” said Ben King, Country Director for Google Singapore. “Google is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we are proud to honour Che Zahara as a pioneering champion of the rights of women and children through this Google Doodle.”