Survey Promo
RVA App Promo Image

Singaporean champion of migrant workers' rights dies at 73

Mrs Bridget Tan (right) received the Hero Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery Award from Hillary Clinton (left) in 2011. (Photo source: US Department of States)

Bridget Tan, a long-time campaigner for the rights of migrant workers and founder of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), died on April 18. She was 73.

That tragic news came seven years after she had a stroke.

HOME, an NGO, described Tan as a pioneer for her work with migrants in Singapore. 

"Bridget was an untiring advocate and champion of the rights of migrant workers,” HOME said in a message.

According to the HOME’s Facebook post, "She was instrumental in founding Main's present operations, which include our refuge for abused domestic workers, skills training programs, and legal and job counseling services for all migrant workers,"

The statement said added, "Tan was a real friend and ally of the migrants; she always lent a listening ear and gave a helping hand to people in need."

She had spent the previous few years in Batam, Indonesia, working for a non-profit organization.

On September 29, 1948, she was born as the third of four children to a physician and a housewife.

Tan played a pivotal role in forming the Roman Catholic Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI) in Singapore in 1998.

On Father Andy Altamirano's advice, the Hero Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery Award winner joined the initiative. Soon after the panel was constituted, the priest died, and she offered to serve as chair.

In a 2011 interview, she said she "felt God's call" when Father Altamirano urged her to join the commission.

Tan founded ACMI's food, housing, and training programs, but later she resigned from her post due to some operational management challenges. 

She founded HOME in 2004 using the money she earned during her retirement. 

The nonprofit provides temporary accommodation, medical, legal, and financial assistance, and job skills training to migrant workers who have been abused or exploited by their employers or migrant placement agency personnel. 

Since its founding, the group's mission has extended to include victims of the sex trade and attempts to combat human trafficking. Additionally, it is an advocate.

Tan also founded ‘Yayasan Dunia Viva Wanita’ (World Foundation for Women), a women's sanctuary, in 2004 in Sekupang, Batam, the largest city in the province of Riau Islands, Indonesia. 

The group is listed on HOME's website as a "cross-border partner," they collaborated on a 2012 study of sex workers in Batam.

She has received several international honors for her advocacy work. 

Thailand and the Philippines have also lauded her achievements.

Tan, who was suffering from diabetes and hypertension, had a stroke in February 2014. 

According to the mainstream media, she collapsed at home and was transported to Changi General Hospital, where she had emergency surgery and remained in critical care for two months.

After the stroke, her first public appearance was in December of the same year, at a HOME tenth anniversary event.

Tan said that her most outstanding achievement over the preceding decade lifted the house from "local renown" to "international recognition at regional and South East region.” 

"The work is everlasting. As long as Singapore needs foreign labor,” she said, “There would be a demand for HOME.”

Jolovan Wham, an activist, writes on his Facebook page in tribute to Mrs. Tan that he has always had a love-hate relationship with her, "as is often the case with folks you like and respect."

Through her, “I learned what it was like to ‘walk the talk’ through her, and when you are determined to do anything, however, limited your resources, if you dream big, wonders can be achieved.”

“Tan was a fierce advocate and never minced her words. She was stubborn and could be maddeningly frustrating to work with but incredibly generous, kind, compassionate with a deep commitment to social justice,” he added, “ It will take time for me to process this,” said Wham.

“A large part of who I am today is due to her, whether she shaped my values and attitude in ways that no one else did when I met her in my early twenties or because I rebelled against her later in life. One of civil society's and the migrant worker movement's mainstays has died. She will be missed, without a doubt, “he concluded.

Mrs. Tan is survived by a son, a daughter, and six granddaughters. 


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.