The rumbling sound of drums by the Minds Taiko Drum troupe reverberated around the Tower Ballroom of Shangri‑La Hotel, Singapore, signalling the arrival of guest of honour, Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO)’s patron Mrs Mary Tan. But more than that, the rhythms resonated with the “Marching to Our Own Beat” theme of SCWO’s annual gala dinner to mark International Women’s Day in March.

In her opening speech, SCWO president Malathi Das, paraphrasing Henry David Thoreau, said: “If a woman does not keep pace with her male companions, perhaps it is because she hears a different drummer. Let her step to the music which she hears, however measured or far away.” This is also the spirit that is behind the United Nations’ 2016 theme for International Women’s Day: Planet 50-50 in 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality, which Das said SCWO’s member organisations — which have hit the 60 mark — play a pivotal role in pushing forward.

Das also paid tribute to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame honourees, including the 14 inducted this year. They include the late May Wong, a pioneer community worker and fundraiser; Jaya Mohideen, Singapore’s first female career diplomat; as well as food personalities Violet Oon and Aziza Ali. The women and their representatives were presented with The Flame, a trophy that symbolises the vitality of the women and the torch of inspiration that is passed from generation to generation. They were lauded with applause by the women parliamentarians, foreign diplomats, senior civil servants and representatives of SCWO’s member organisations present that night.