More can be done to help vulnerable young women, says President Halimah

Madam President carrying Nurul Humaira, 4.5 months old, at Dayspring SPIN (Single Parents INformed INvolved and INcluded). Nurul's mother, Nayli Nur Damia (far right), 23, holding her two-year-old daughter, Zahra Inara, looks on. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - More needs to be done to help vulnerable young women, especially those who suffered abuse, said President Halimah Yacob on Monday (Sept 25).

Whether in schools or the community, education of young girls is important, so that they know what they can do to protect themselves. At the same time, abuse - which can happen in homes, outside homes and even among friends - must be prevented, she said.

"But that cannot be just through legal enforcement, it also has to be through education and awareness because young girls are very vulnerable, they may not know what are their rights, what they can do, what they can prevent others from doing," she said, speaking to reporters after a visit to HCSA Dayspring in Turf Club Road, which is a centre for vulnerable teenagers and women.

Among those Madam Halimah met at HCSA Dayspring, which is part of social service organisation HCSA Community Services, were single mothers and their young children, who are being helped through a new programme called Spin (Single Parents Informed, Involved and Included).

Spin was started by HCSA Dayspring in April this year and has served 25 single mums and their children so far, providing them with emotional support and preparing them for job interviews.

Volunteers trained in basic counselling and crisis management skills, such as suicide prevention and child protection, meet with the women, who also have the support of a social worker throughout the 12 month programme.

A total of 33 active volunteers are involved, and another 20 have signed up but have yet to be paired with programme participants, said social worker Jessica Vincent, 38.

Ms Jessica said financial assistance is quite well covered in Singapore and may not be the major concern for some single parents.

"Most of those who come to us are vulnerable and face caregiving stress, emotional issues, and we want to provide the support they're not getting from family and friends," she said.

Besides holding job skills and family bonding activities, the centre has also held baby showers for some of the women.

Madam Halimah's visit to HCSA kicked off another busy week of meetings and visits to social service organisations, in her second week in office.

Besides participants of the Spin programme, she also met teenage girls staying at HCSA's Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre, which was set up in 2011 to provide abused girls from the ages of 12 to 16 with a small-group home environment to receive treatment and therapy.

The centre can house 12 girls, and has helped 68 girls since it was started. Of those who graduated from the programme, some are working or studying at polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education and the National University of Singapore

Madam Halimah said she was glad many people have come forward to volunteer at the centre. "It really provides the young girls who need that kind of support a safe place for them to recover from their trauma and then to reintegrate back into society," she said.

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