Singapore nun who counselled death row inmates on BBC list of inspiring women
A Roman Catholic nun has become the first Singaporean to make the BBC's annual list of 100 influential and inspiring women around the world.
Sister Gerard Fernandez, 81, worked with the prisons here as a death row counsellor for more than 40 years until 2017. She "walked with" 18 inmates on death row, up until their executions.
Among the inmates she has worked with were Catherine Tan Mui Choo and Hoe Kah Hong, the women who helped temple medium Adrian Lim kill two children in Toa Payoh in 1981 in a ritual murder case.
The BBC's 100 Women list features girls and women aged 15 to 98 from more than 50 countries. This year's theme is The Female Future, which asks what the future would look like if it were driven by women.
This year's list includes Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, the climate change activist who criticised world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit last month and Malaysian transgender rights activist Nisha Ayub, who was sent to a male prison at the age of 21.
The BBC says on its website many on the list are driving change on behalf of women everywhere.
"They give us their vision of what life could look like in 2030," it says.
Sister Fernandez told The Straits Times yesterday the news of her making it onto the list came as a surprise.
"I don't work for prizes and awards. I didn't think I'd get one at 81," she said.
"There are many women who live their lives for other people every day, and I admire those who work for others. I'm happy to be able to spread care and compassion to others."
She co-founded the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry in 1977 and explained that she counselled death row prisoners because "the condemned need hope".
"We may condemn them, but God condemns no one who comes to him," she said in a report in January.
Journalist Heather Chen, 32, who works at BBC News, nominated Sister Fernandez for this year's list.
She said: "Her story was exceptionally strong because of how she would exhaust herself mentally for people on death row to help them accept their fates."