18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
The Young Unionist

Story and Photos by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat

Goh Huishan is a woman on a mission. One that sees her devoting herself as an educator focused on imparting the right values and lessons to her students, look out for the interests of her fellow teachers as a unionist with the Singapore Teachers’ Union, and being a voice against environmental waste through Save That Pen, an initiative she started together with her friends while in University. 

Describing herself as enterprising, the 31-year-old shared: “I’m very happy to be able to break new ground, do different things and am always up for a new challenge. This is why I love my job and the fact that everything I do can generate some social good.”

Save That Pen might have started as an initiative with like-minded friends to spur environmental responsibility, but it proved to be the bridge that connected Huishan to the Labour Movement when Young NTUC reached out to support them as part of its cause-based advocacy initiatives in 2012.


Growing The Relationship 

Having received NTUC’s support for Save That Pen, Huishan felt that it was only right to return the favour by becoming an NTUC member. After all, there were all kinds of privileges she could enjoy with membership. 

However, participating in various Young NTUC events over the years, such as Young NTUC’s Youth Campus, soon gave her a better understanding of what the Labour Movement stood for and how it has been helping workers. Little surprise then that when she was asked by the Singapore Teachers’ Union to come on board as a leader and see what she could do to help teachers, she agreed. 

“To me, if I was to be involved in union work, it would be through my professional union because I would understand my industry best. I’ve always been fascinated by the discourse of work- the relationship people have with their work – and the idea of labour relations,” said Huishan.  

From looking at things from an intellectual perspective, she began listening in to industrial relations cases on the ground. This soon prompted her to think more about the role she could play to help others in her industry, particularly younger teachers like herself. 


Relishing The Experience

From attending union meetings, participating in Young NTUC events and even moderating the recent panel discussion between Young NTUC leaders and Singapore President Mdm Halimah Yacob, Huishan has been relishing the experience. 

“I think it has been very fascinating to learn about union work. I enjoy my time with the union and with Young NTUC because it pops me out of my social bubble. The people I meet show me a facet of Singapore that I normally wouldn’t encounter. Through Young NTUC, I get to meet young people working across different sectors and who have a different social reality from mine. I cherish my interactions with them because it reminds me that my experiences are very limited,” she said. 

Naturally, having to juggle the demands of teaching, union work and activism can get tiring, but Huishan credits her stamina to believing in her purpose. 

“There is no elixir, but I sincerely believe that whatever I am doing can lead to a positive impact in some way. I always walk out feeling energised after my meetings because I am always thinking about new possibilities and how they can be put together. That excites me,” she said. 

Work aside, travel is something that Huishan counts close to her heart. “I try to travel to places that challenge me because when we go to places like Russia, Mongolia and Iran, it lets me see a world that is different from my own. That’s when the sense of insularity hits me and I see Singapore as part of the world. When we go out there and see how other people are living, we begin to appreciate what we have a little more,” she shared.