Executive Director, Daughters of Tomorrow

Advocates: Carrie Tan

She works so that other women can do so, too.

Advocates: Carrie Tan

About 25,000 women in Singapore struggle to bring up their children due to poverty. Daughters of Tomorrow helps them find regular and sustained employment by connecting them with volunteers and community resources.

“Many women from the low-income segment in Singapore live solely on financial assistance; they want to find work but can’t, due to challenges such as lack of confidence and skills. Their children therefore cannot access resources and opportunities that enable them to thrive.

“When I set up Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT) in 2014, I sought to raise awareness of the circumstances these women faced and provide support and solutions to allow them to join the workforce. As executive director, I try to get employers sensitised to our beneficiaries’ needs, for the community to empathise with them and the government to identify policy gaps and address barriers that prevent the social mobility of these women’s families.

“Among the women DOT reaches out to, 95 percent are mothers, with 40 percent being single parents with little or no family support. They have young children so it’s difficult for them to find work, especially if it involves shifts because childcare services only run from 7am to 7pm.

“Last September, we got 30 employers from across the retail, F&B, hospitality and eldercare sectors to adopt our Core and Stable Scheduling initiative. The women they employed get to keep office hours, which allows them to pick their children up from childcare before 7pm. We hope to grow this number by sharing their success stories with more businesses.

“Preparing to return to the workforce is significant for these women, particularly if they have experienced social isolation as a homemaker and trauma from an acrimonious divorce, domestic violence and financial crisis. Besides healing their socio-emotional needs, we must also equip them with practical skills.

“Hence, the different programmes to progressively build up their knowledge and self-esteem. In addition to a Confidence Curriculum that connects them with peers for emotional support and introduces them to new knowledge and life skills, IT Literacy teaches practical skills such as Microsoft applications, Internet and email, as well as navigating job search sites. Financial Literacy, meanwhile, offers them advice on better money management.

“Recently, we also got women who’d completed the Confidence Curriculum to organise a block iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fast) to welcome new residents from rental flats in Choa Chu Kang. Instead of being passive recipients, it enabled them to showcase their cooking skills—they each made and brought a dish to the party (with costs reimbursed by DOT). Despite financial scarcity, the low-income community have a great desire to give back. So making them organisers and agents of outreach offers them an empowered role in the community—and they respond tremendously well to that.

“For every $1 DOT receives, 80 cents go to services, programmes and support for the beneficiaries. The money comes mostly from corporate social responsibility partnerships and grants from private and community foundations as well as from the community. I feel encouraged learning that volunteers also raise funds for DOT during birthdays and other occasions. They may not be large amounts but every bit helps. Just $20 can help pay for bus fares for a mother to attend job interviews and $10 allows her to top up her prepaid phone so she doesn’t miss calls from prospective employers.

“We have also assisted foreign-born women on a Long-Term Visit Pass, who faced impending deportation and stood to lose their Singaporean-born kids, to secure employment and help them appeal to the relevant government agencies so they can fight for their children’s custody. Last year, around 400 women benefited from our services: 140 were successfully employed while others are in various stages of job readiness. By 2021, we want to help 500 women find employment.”

This story first appeared in the August issue of A.

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