Plenary Sessions
Plenary Session 1
Innovations, Inspirations & Sustainability of Asian Family Services
Noda Seiko
Ms Noda Seiko
Member of Parliament
House of Representatives, and
Research Commission on Info-Communications Strategy
Liberal Democratic Party
Topic: The Quest for a Society Centered on Children

In Japan, policy measures targeting children and young people in general continue to produce a certain degree of positive results. Such endeavors have not, however, succeeded in halting the nation's decreasing birthrate and the accompanying decline in the general population. Other worrisome conditions include child abuse, school truancy, adolescent suicide and other issues surrounding the younger members of Japanese society. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, further heavy burdens have been placed on children, youth and the family.

To truly come to grips with such challenges, Japan faces a pressing need to mobilize from the perspective of children themselves, and in doing so treat the interests of this younger segment as our utmost priority. Toward that end, we must boldly commit ourselves to realizing a “Society Centered on Children.” In my mind, this should be characterized by locating the essential initiatives and policies impacting this age group at the focus of the social fabric envisioned over the decades to come.


Noda Seiko joined the Imperial Hotel in 1983. She was first elected as a member of the Gifu Prefectural Assembly at the age of 26 in 1987. In 1993, she was elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the first time. She has served 10 terms. In 1998, she was appointed the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, in 2008 the Minister of State for the Promotion of Consumer Affairs, in 2012 the Chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) General Council, in 2017 the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications and Minister in charge of Women's Empowerment, in 2018 the Chairperson of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, and in 2020 the Executive Acting Secretary-General of the LDP. In 2021, she served as Minister of State for Regional Revitalization, Declining Birthrate, and Gender Equality, Minister in Charge of Women's Empowerment, Policies Related to Children, and Measures for Loneliness and Isolation. In 2022, she has been appointed as the Chairperson of the LDP Research Commission on info-Communications Strategy.

Nor Razak Bakar
Registrar / Kadi Ustaz Nor Razak Bakar
Registrar and Kadi (Muslim Marriage Solemniser)
Registry of Muslim Marriages
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
Muhammad Tarmizi Abdul Wahid
Naib Kadi Ustaz Muhammad Tarmizi Abdul Wahid
Naib Kadi (Deputy Muslim Marriage Solemniser)
Registry of Muslim Marriages
Topic: Bersamamu: Inspiring Strong and Resilient Muslim Marriages

Under the lead of Ustaz Pasuni Maulan (former Registrar of Registry of Muslim Marriages in Singapore), a group of Kadi (Muslim marriage solemnisers) and Naib Kadi (deputy Muslim marriage solemnisers) initiated a ground-up effort in 2019 - called Bersamamu, or “With You” - to inspire soon-to-wed couples and the newlyweds to build strong and stable marriages.

The Kadi and Naib Kadi have good social standing and are respected by the Muslim community. They are well-placed to support couples in their journey towards an enduring marriage. The speakers will share on Bersamamu, which is an integral part of the Singapore Muslim community support ecosystem that focuses on strengthening support for marriage, parenthood, and early childhood education.

The presentation will also cover how the different partners collaborate to provide a strong foundation and ensure a strong start for our Singapore Muslim families. Preliminary findings from a qualitative assessment of Bersamamu would be shared to provide indications on the effectiveness of the programme and areas for improvement.


Registrar / Kadi Ustaz Nor Razak Bakar

Ustaz Nor Razak Bakar is Registrar and Kadi with the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM). Ustaz Nor Razak leads a team of 2 Deputy Registrars and 49 Kadi and Naib Kadi who are solemnisers of Muslim marriages.

He is no stranger to ROMM and the Muslim family law fraternity, having been a Deputy Registrar and Kadi for 20 years.

Ustaz Nor Razak has been instrumental in working with the Kadi and Naib Kadi to support all marrying couples and newlyweds to build strong marriages under the Bersamamu initiative launched in Jul 2019.

He held an appointment as ad-hoc President with the Syariah Court of Singapore from Sep 2019 to Aug 2022.

Ustaz Nor Razak has contributed in areas pertaining to religious and counselling programmes, and mosque development in Singapore.

Ustaz Nor Razak received his tertiary education in Islamic Studies and Arabic language from Al-Azhar University, Cairo.

Naib Kadi Ustaz Muhammad Tarmizi Abdul Wahid

Ustaz Muhammad Tarmizi Bin Abdul Wahid is a Naib Kadi with the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) since 2011.

He is the founder and CEO of Safinah Holdings Pte Ltd, which provides Islamic education, programmes and events on contemporary issues catered for young professionals, young couples, and new parents.

He served in the Office of the Mufti, a unit in the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), where he was the direct secretariat for the Mufti of Singapore as well as the Singapore Fatwa Committee.

He currently sits in various committees including the Muis Fatwa Committee, Pergas Council Committee, Board of Visitors (Drug Rehabilitation Centres and Anti-Inhalant Abuse Centres), AMP Singapore Board of Directors, and appointed as a patron for Punggol West SMC.

He has written two best-selling books, The Art of Letting God and Call Upon Him and has recently released a third book entitled, You Are Loved.

He has his own podcast channel called The Mizi Wahid Podcast, where he addresses issues surrounding Faith, Family and Future.

Ustaz Tarmizi received his tertiary education in Islamic Jurisprudence from Al-Azhar University, Cairo.

Rahayu Buang
Mdm Rahayu Buang
Chief Executive Officer KidSTART Singapore Limited (KSL) and
Director (Child Development)
Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), Singapore
Topic: KidSTART: Singapore's Strategy for Enhancing Social Mobility - Innovating Evidence-Informed Practice and Service Delivery

Neuroscience informs us that cognitive, physical, socio-emotional health and capacities are inextricably intertwined, and these interactions in a child's early years significantly influence how he/she grows and learns, and consequently their lifelong outcomes.

KidSTART was set up in 2016 as a pilot to ameliorate adverse effects of early disparities. It adopted and adapted evidence-based curricula and processes to facilitate upstream child development intervention, language acquisition and serve-and-return interaction between children and their caregivers, contextualised for Asian families in the home, community and preschool settings.

KidSTART upholds that parents know their children best, and have aspirations for their children. KidSTART therefore adopts a strengths-based approach to support parents in developing skills to engage their children positively. In its progressive scale-up islandwide, KidSTART drew upon learning points from the pilot and an evaluation study to identify key facilitators. The KidSTART experience also iterated the importance of working with other stakeholders in the ecosystem for holistic and sustainable support, including those who have benefited from KidSTART.

KidSTART's presentation highlights how its strategy of enhancing social mobility was an innovative process of learning and relearning to ensure that the playing field is levelled for lower-resourced children to do well, no matter their starting points.


Mdm Rahayu Buang is the Director of Child Development in the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). She is also concurrently the Chief Executive Officer of KidSTART Singapore Ltd, an organisation set up under the Ministry of Social and Family Development, to oversee the implementation of programmes that help children under 6 years old from lower-income families have a good start in life. Throughout her career in the social service sector, she has worked in various policy and programme development portfolios, including in the areas of rehabilitation, protection, disability, family and women issues.

Plenary Session 2
Health, Mental Health & Resilience of Families
Takeshi Tamura
Dr Takeshi Tamura
President of Asian Academy of Family Therapy
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Marriage and Family Therapist, Japan
Topic: Hikikomori Syndrome and Game Addiction Innovating Family and Social Life in the Pandemic Era

Hikikomori syndrome refers to youths who withdraw from all kinds of social activities like school, training, or work, and isolate themselves at home for years. They often stay up late addicted to computer games. It has been a major mental health concern in Japan and many Asian societies.

COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed our family and social lives. People physically separate each other to avoid infection, withdraw from face-to-face social encounters, stay home, and spend more time together with family.

Mechanism of hikikomori and game addiction is best understood from multi-level perspectives.

A. INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGY, High level of anxiety in forming personal relationship, often diagnosed as ADHD, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.
B. FAMILY DYSFUNCTION. High level of anxiety in the family, trauma and abuse in childhood, anxious attachment, conflict between parents and extended family, enmeshed family relationship, physical and psychiatric illness of family members.
C. SOCIO-CULTURAL influence in Asia. High expectation of academic performance, bullying and maltreatment at school, advancement of information technologies, and collectivistic nature of Asian society.

Solution to the problem includes creating safe and secure relationships in the family and society. We can provide consultation and counseling services for the individual youth, family, and community. We innovate new online service in addition to the traditional face-to-face services.


Dr Takeshi Tamura is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a marriage and family therapist in private practice. He was a professor of Tokyo Gakugei University (1992-2011).

He obtained three years of family therapy training at the Tavistock Clinic and the Institute of Family Therapy in London. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Tsukuba, and MSc degree from Birkbeck College, London University. He has 40 years of experience of psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and families, as well as supervision to mental health professionals in Japan and Asian region. His clinical experiences include treatment of school refusal, learning disorder (LD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), as well as relationship issues of couples and families.

He is a specialist of Hikikomori (social withdrawal), which is widely spread among Japanese youth.

He is actively involved in the development of family therapy regionally and internationally. He is a president of Asian Academy of Family Therapy (AAFT), Vice-President of the Japan Association of Family Therapy (JAFT), a Board of Director of the International Family Therapy Association (IFTA), and an international member of American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA).

Kim Yeong-Hee
Prof Kim Yeong-Hee
Department of Child Welfare
Chungbuk National University
South Korea
Topic: Changes and Challenges in Family: Before, During, and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

The three dramatic crises of Corona 19, pandemic, and shutdown have brought changes and challenges in the families around the world. As the consequences of financial insecurity, caregiving burden, and confinement-related stress, families are still facing threats to their relationships and family processes such as routines, rules, and rituals. This presentation seeks to provide insights into changes and challenges for families in the pandemic and endemic era based on family stress model within the ecological contexts. It gives a comprehensive perspective on how family functions are complexly linked to social breakdown and how families can be resilient to overcome crises and well-being of family in the future. Using a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis, this presentation examines the magnitude and direction of the association among family stressor, resources, and family functioning before, during, and after the Covid-19 pandemic. The illustration and statistics of the centrality of family buffering against risk in the context of COVID-19 as well as promoting family functioning will be provided. Issues of family abuse and violence are included. Finally, implications of family-based intervention and research are discussed.


Prof. Yeong-Hee Kim, PhD, is the Professor of the Department of Child Welfare at Chungbuk National University and Supervisor of the Kim's Child & Family Counselling Centre, Korea. She was the Director of Cheongju Healthy Family Support Centre and she participated in the 3SEM (Smart, Smile & Sharing Eating Movement) Project with the Nongshim Food Company. Prof. Kim was the President of Korean Couple & Family Counselling Association, the President of Korean Association of Family Relations. She received the highly respected scholar award in 2010 and was chosen as an influential scholar of Korea in 2013. She is an international member of the National Council of Family Relations and serves as an advisory member of the government, and has presented at various conferences on child and family areas including counselling and policy.

Goh Chor Leng, Esther
Dr Esther Goh Chor Leng
Associate Professor
Head of Department of Social Work
National University of Singapore
Topic: Covid-19, Economic Hardships and Mental Health: A Mixed-Method Study on Low-Income Mothers and Children

Objectives: This paper tests this hypothesis on a disadvantaged group of financially poor mothers in Singapore during the heights of Covid-19 pandemic.

Design: This is a mixed method study. We conducted five focused group discussions with interviewers who administered the third way of survey questionnaire to 464 mothers from low-income families between June and September 2020. Key themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of the focused group data were used to guide the analysis of the quantitative data from the mental health measurements administered to the participants.

Results: Interviewers reported about one-quarter of the mothers experienced heighten stress during Covid-19. Majority of the interviewers, however, did not observe mark increase in their stress levels. Correspondingly the quantitative data did not show significant increase in the depression and anxiety scores between wave 2 and 3 results. Most of them did not express helplessness. Numerous mothers were able to report different strategies in coping with the financial distress. The government Covid-19 support grants were cited by many as helpful in cushioning the financial stress. Comparing the quantitative measurement of hope scale scores before and during Covid-19 did not show statistically significant decline. A surprised finding, albeit few, poor mothers considered Covid-19 and the lock-down period as positive experience for their families as they had time to stay together.

Conclusion: We speculate the relatively stable level of mental health state of poor mothers amidst Covid-19 pandemic to their internal (psychological traits) resilience which is facilitated by external (social milieu) resilience. Significant resources made available by the Covid-19 support grants could have bolstered the adaptive strategies of the disadvantaged group in coping with financial distress at least in the immediate term. The mental health and resilience of poor mothers after the support grants are exhausted are areas for further research and intervention.


Esther C L Goh is the Associate Professor and Head of Department of Social Work Department of the National University of Singapore.

Her research interests include bilateral parent-child dynamics, children as agentic beings even in resource-constrained environment. Esther and her students researched and accumulated empirical evidence of children's capacities as knowledgeable agents and contributed to solutions and are not mere recipients of help; She examines intergenerational dynamics within families; social work practice-based evidence research: client-social worker dynamics; and identities, social integrations, and resilience of cross-national families.

Conference Day 3
National Perspectives in Strengthening Families & Marriages
Grace Li
Ms Grace Li
Chief Social Work Officer
Social Welfare Department
Hong Kong SAR
Topic: Hong Kong Perspective: Integrated Family Service Centres in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Historically, family services evolved as the most basic social welfare services, meeting a diversity of social needs. From the establishment of the first casework district office of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) in Hong Kong in 1965, SWD set up Family Services Centres (FSCs) in the 70s to focus their resources on social work services which assumed the primary responsibility in providing basic services to families and individuals in crisis and at risk. Upon allocation of substantial resources to strengthen family services in late 1990's, SWD re-engineered the then family service resources for better coordination of these services to address the increasing complexity of community needs and problems. Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs) operated by both SWD and non-governmental organisations were therefore formed in 2004-05, with the guiding principles of accessibility, early identification, integration and partnership. Unlike FSCs which provided casework, a spectrum of services are provided by IFSCs to address the multifarious needs of individuals and families of specific localities. Over the years, were there any changes and service wisdom of IFSCs? Under the COVID-19 pandemic which has extensive impacts on all walks of life, how did IFSCs respond to the changing service needs of her service users?


Ms Grace LI, since 1990, is a registered social worker in Hong Kong working for the Social Welfare Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. She assisted in the implementation of the transformation of Integrated Family Service in 2004/05 and now is the Chief Social Work Officer (Family and Child Welfare) overseeing the services of Integrated Family Service Centres.

Mariam bint Ali bin Nasser Al Misnad
Minister Mariam bint Ali bin Nasser Al Misnad
Qatar Minister for Social Development and Family
Topics: Qatar Perspective: Strengthening Families & Marriages

How do families benefit society? Happy, healthy families lead to individuals who are a contributing part of society. They have a support system to help build each other up. On the other hand, people raised in an unhealthy home environments struggle to be part of society. It hard for them to find their place in the world. They tend to struggle with social relationships and often substance abuse. The make up of the societal family units has profound effects on the values and actions of the whole.

Strong, healthy, happy families are a necessity to society. They teach us how to be part of our community, give back, and be our best selves. When we can do that, we can build a strong society and civilization. In what ways do you think families have an important influence on society? A nuclear Family support the course of finding a strong society away from the social disordered like terrorism, drugs addiction and social unrest. That is why the collective global work should be rendered to save the family structure, perspective and practice against the huge propaganda that promote individuality and propose alternatives out of nowhere.


Her Excellency, was appointed as a Minister of Social Development and The Family in October 2021 after going through a rich course of social development achievements and active advocating for a better empowered human life, fighting illiteracy and coherent social childhood and women rights against most crucial challenges on both internal and international levels.

In 2006 when she was appointed as a member of the Childhood Committee at the Supreme Council for the Family Affairs. Later she served as Acting Executive Director for the Childhood Cultural Center (2008 - 2001). Then she helmed the Media and Communication department of the Social Rehabilitation Center (Owain). In 2013 she has been assigned to lead the regional advocacy campaign for Education Above All Foundation. From 2016 - 2021 she undertook the executive leadership for the Orphan Care Center (Dreama).

In 2021, Her Excellency appointed as an Executive Director of Administration and Finance Division at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies DIFGS, further of being a member of the Advisory Board for the School of Public Administration and Development Economics (SPADE) at DIFGS.

Zifleena Hassan
Minister of State Zifleena Hassan
Minister of State for Gender, Family and Social Services, Maldives
Topic: Maldives Perspective: Strengthening Families & Marriages

Maldives has seen several landmark achievements in the area of supporting women, children, elderly and people with disabilities, and to strengthen their families, including the social safety net program, universal health insurance scheme and old age pension scheme.

Decentralization of social protection services has been one of the major achievements that helped individuals and families living in remote islands to seek help from a close range, hence, institutions has been established in each atoll to provide psychosocial support to the victims, and carrying out awareness programs.

A national campaign called ‘Geveshi Gulhun’ (Domestic Relationships) launched in 2020 to combat domestic violence and strengthen family relationship bases its activity plan on developing awareness materials and executing other innovative activities. As a result of this initiative, a significant increase has been noted in reporting DV cases over the last two years.

The Gender Equality Action Plan seeks to ensure gender equality in terms of leadership, economic development, justice and social well-being. The Action Plan will further expand the Geveshi Gulhun campaign. As the Action Plan seeks to promote the economic empowerment of women, various activities are to be conducted with the specific goal of protecting women's economic rights.

One of the major & crucial GEAP planned activity is conducting awareness programs about prenuptial rights and to provide social and economic support for women by preparing guidelines to ensure each partner is given their rightful share of joint property after divorce, expanding career pathways and entrepreneurship opportunities for women with disabilities and creating childcare spaces in government offices in order to ensure that childcare does not discourage parents, especially women, from seeking job opportunities


Zifleena Hassan is the Minister of State for Gender, Family and Social Services. She was appointed as the Minister of State on 19 August 2019. She oversees the Gender Development and Empowerment Department, the Family and Community Division, and the Media and Communications Division of the Ministry.

During her time at the Ministry, she has led several noteworthy projects, including a pivotal role in the ‘Geveshi Gulhun’ campaign - a nationwide media campaign to combat domestic violence and strengthen social service provision in the Maldives. Her work is focused on policy changes that will empower women and ensure no one is left behind.

She began her career as a secondary school teacher at Gaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo - her home island - sharing her passion for the Dhivehi language through education. As a dedicated educator, she led community education programs, aimed at the social wellbeing and academic development of every child in her community. In 2002, she was appointed as a member of the Atoll Development Committee by the central government, tasked with planning, implementing, and organizing development activities throughout the atoll and at island level. She fulfilled and these responsibilities while continuing her work in the education sector.

She joined the pro-democratic movement led by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to bring change and better serve the people of Thinadhoo and the Maldives. She contested in the MDP parliamentary primary, in 2014 as relatively new face in politics. Despite not winning the candidacy, in 2016 she was elected as the President for the Southern constituency of Thinadhoo in the MDP national council. Since then she has played a key role in MDP women's wing and health committee and has been a strong advocate for issues faced by women in politics, and works to make public life safer and more welcoming for female leaders. She ran in the parliamentary primaries in 2019 once again and lost by a single vote.

In 2021, she was re-elected as the President for Southern constituency of GDh. Thinadhoo in the MDP national council.

With over 20 years of experience, including in education, social and politics, Zifleena is deeply committed to bringing social and economic reform to the country. She remains passionate and committed to making a tangible difference in the community.

Zifleena has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Abertay Dundee in 2010, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Southern Queensland Australia in 2012.

Sun Xue Ling
Minister of State Sun Xueling
Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Home Affairs
Topic: Singapore Perspective: Strengthening Families through Community Partnership

Strong families help to raise supportive and contributing members for the community. In turn, the community can help strengthen families and marriages to nurture resilient and self-reliant individuals. This is a mutually beneficial virtuous cycle which propagates so that other families may also succeed. Partnering the community is therefore an important lever in Singapore to help us build strong and loving families. Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore, will be sharing how community partnerships have helped to strengthen families and marriages in Singapore through various means. From helping families with different needs to better build resilience to celebrating the joys of having strong families, Singapore's community partners have helped to reach out to many families and provide assistance in a timely and accessible manner to strengthen their familial bonds. Besides working with families, Singapore's community partners have also helped to complement policy and programme enhancements through outreach, engagement and even co-creation of solutions with the public. The spirit of community partnership assures families that they are not alone at every step of their family building journey, and hopefully they too can help support others when they are ready.


Ms Sun Xueling was elected a Member of Parliament in September 2015. She currently holds the position of Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Ms Sun serves as a Board Member of the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

Ms Sun served in the Ministry of Education from 2020 - 2022 and had also served in the Ministries of Home Affairs and National Development from 2018 - 2020.

Before entering politics, Ms Sun spent more than a decade in the private sector in finance and investments. She received her Master of Science in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and also holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Economics from the National University of Singapore.