International Men’s Day 2020 : Jerry Gavu

We have spoken to a number of colleagues who have shared their experiences on topics like men's health, challenges faced by men and being a positive role model to support the community.


I never really thought much about the effects of my speech impairment in my earlier years. I was the best (or top three) in my class throughout primary through to high school and still survived the subtle giggles from friends. I had an angel of a mother who made me feel safe even when I was at my most vulnerable, until she passed in 2012 – just four months after joining Standard Chartered.

I got to university and decided I wanted to contest for a student leadership position in my second year. My first attempt at campaigning in a senior class went horribly wrong. I choked in my throat and practically ran out of the class without delivering one full sentence.

My worst experience was when I had the opportunity to get into bank management trainee programmes. I went through the first hurdle, the aptitude test and then was called for an assessment centre. I was nominated by my team to do our first presentation and right there in front of everyone, I began to stammer terribly. The words did not come out, the facilitators were stunned, and I just walked back to my seat. At the interview session that followed, the panel told me to build confidence before looking for any of such roles. I told myself I would not miss that opportunity ever again.

When the opportunity to join Standard Chartered came, I fought through the stutter and made sure nothing hindered the words. Yes, I stammered at the various interviews, but I made sure I gave my best and I got the job.

Since then I have aced every interview and seen myself grow and better my speech. I joined Toastmasters International, decided to take MC-ing jobs, poetry and other speaking engagements.

I have seen people laugh. I have a beautiful wife and a lovely son, and anytime I look at him, I pray he takes after the flawless speech of his mother. The world I grew up in has not been kind to people who speak like me and I have decided to use my voice and pen.

I wrote a poem titled ‘Speechless’ which summarises what it feels like to be in my shoes:

“I choose silence in every situation

Not because I am unintelligent

Not that I want to mind my own business

It rather makes sense to mind my own business

Because no matter what I think about

They are better kept as thoughts


My views are voiceless

My ideas are silent

Even synonyms evade my counsel

And the words choke deep in my throat

I want to speak without hesitation

But I know they will laugh and giggle

And make jokes about my situation


I won’t be perturbed by their insensitivity

Cowardice cannot be by best friend

I will begin slowly

One word a minute is a good start

The world can run as fast as they will

My speech will wait for me

Until my thoughts become words”