SID's new plan for a brighter future for B40 women

SID's new plan for a brighter future for B40 women

PETALING JAYA, 22 March 2022 – Soroptimist International Damansara (SID), a local chapter of Soroptimist International, which is part of the global volunteer movement working to transform the lives of women and children, has rolled out a series of initiatives to help single mothers and their families who were in need amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organisation empowered women from underprivileged communities to earn a living through the establishment of its sewing studio; rolled out the food aid programme during the height of the pandemic; and supported students with digital devices for their online classes. 

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that many single mothers in Malaysia face financial challenges as a majority of them are from rural areas in the country as well as lack the skills and education required for proper employment.

Furthermore, the Selangor Women’s Empowerment Institute (IWB), a think tank under the Selangor State Legislative Assembly, shared that single mothers are among those that took the hardest hit during the pandemic, having to care for their children while ensuring adequate flow of income during the tough times. 

Dr Saradha Narayanan, the National Representative Malaysia of Soroptimist International Southwest Pacific (SISWP) and past President said, “As members of the society with the privilege to receive an education and earn a living, I believe that it is our responsibility to lend a hand to those who are less fortunate.

“The key to empowering women and especially single mothers is enabling them to be financially independent. We want to extend long term help, meeting women’s financial needs as well as training them to make a living, leading them to financial independence despite the pandemic. Ultimately, we want to see them through to break the cycle of poverty.”

Mentari Sewing Studio

SID took on the challenge to meet the needs of single mothers and women from the B40 group by training them in basic sewing skills and providing them with a platform to make a living.  Established in 2020, the Mentari Sewing Studio empowered a group of women from Desa Mentari, Petaling Jaya to make ends meet.

Provided with training in sewing, these women sprang into action during the peak of the pandemic, sewing PPE gowns and face masks for hospital frontliners.

Today, these women can earn an average income of RM 1,000  per month, helping them to supplement their family income and weather the storm.

Food Aid Programme

Last year, the health crisis had also caused food insecurities among low-income households to be more prevalent. Many Malaysians hoisted white flags as a plea for help.  The team at SID saw families raise their flags at Kampung Jawa, Klang, where there was an urgent call for food aid. 

SID partnered with HEINEKEN Malaysia through the company’s HEINEKEN Cares initiative where funds were donated to the organisation, benefiting over 150 residents in the Kampung Jawa community. SID provided the beneficiaries with sufficient groceries and food essentials weekly for three months.

Renuka Indrarajah, Corporate Affairs and Legal Director for HEINEKEN Malaysia says, “We have worked with SI Region of Malaysia (SIROM) since 2018 in transforming the lives of the underprivileged. Through our partnership, we successfully channelled clean water to the rural communities in Sabah.

At the height of the pandemic last year, we enabled SID alongside seven other community organisations to deliver much-needed aid to those in need. In line with our commitment towards  diversity, equity, and inclusion, we are proud to support partners like SID to continue empowering women in underprivileged communities.”  

Education Support

An investment in education is the key to breaking out of the poverty cycle. Besides helping single mothers and families in need, SID also wanted to ensure that their children have access to basic education.

Over the years, SID has provided tuition fees and college bursary aid for children from the B40 communities, especially for students who had proven themselves to be hardworking in school. 

However, access to education has been made even more complicated following school closures last year. When studies went from offline to online, many children of single mothers could not afford the tools needed for online classes such as mobile phones, laptops and even Wi-Fi, causing them to fall behind in their studies. 

SID takes up the challenge

SID stepped up to the challenge once again by reaching out to corporate offices that were willing to donate second-hand laptops. SID also tapped into their funds to purchase brand-new tablets for the children. Not only that, but the team also had to make sure that the students could access their classes by providing them with data plan subscriptions, enabling them to be on par with their more fortunate classmates. 

Dr Saradha added, “We believe in providing equal footing to those who are less fortunate. Our hope is that all single mothers under our care will raise successful children in society, and in the long run, would be able to play a part in generating income for their families.”

The story of Easwary Subramaniam is one of the many that reflects the fruits of SID’s efforts. Early in her childhood, Easwary suffered from Polio disease, causing her to be disabled. Her life did not get easier when she came of age.

Shortly after getting married, she became a victim of domestic abuse. After a few years, her husband fell ill and passed away, leaving her as the sole breadwinner with two young children to raise on her own. In 2010, Easwary was recovering in a women’s refuge centre with her children. At that time, SID saw an opportunity to lend a helping hand to Easwary. 

Since then, the SID team took on the commitment to provide for Easwary and her children’s education for more than a decade, supplying her with a monthly allowance.

“My life has never been easy, but over the years, I learnt that I do not need to go through my difficulties alone as my community has been compassionate towards me and my children. For more than ten years, SID has been supporting me. I would not make it so far without them and I am so glad for the love and care shown by SID towards my family,” said Easwary.  

“Through our initiatives, we aim to educate, enable and empower women and children with a variety of skills to make their mark in the world. However, we cannot do it alone and we hope that more corporates will step up and join us in our journey to shine a light towards a brighter future for women in Malaysia,” Dr Saradha concluded.