71-year-old mother of three adult children with special needs among women celebrated on International Women's Day

Winner of the Lifelong Learner award Molly Shoo (left) and winner of the Loving Caregiver award Emalin Rom at the Sembawang GRC Women's Festival on March 8, 2020. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - For the past 36 years, Madam Emalin Rom, 71, has been the sole caregiver to her three adult children who have special needs.

Never once did she expect to be lauded for what she considers to be her duty as a mother.

But her tireless dedication to her children was recognised on International Women's Day on Sunday (March 8) at the Sembawang GRC Women's Festival, where she won the Loving Caregiver award.

"It's quite challenging to take care of them, but as a mother, I cannot give up. It takes a lot of love and patience but they're not a burden - they bring a lot of joy to me and make me smile every day," said Madam Emalin, a retired telecommunication operator, whose husband passed away eight years ago.

Her youngest child, 34, and 36-year-old twins have autism. With the help of social service agencies, her twins live in a care facility. Friends and neighbours chip in to help Madam Emalin with chores as and when they can.

She was one of four winners, picked from a pool of 40 nominated women, at the event at Kampung Admiralty on Sunday morning. Her long-time neighbour nominated her after learning of the contest late last year.

Winning the Lifelong Learner award was Mrs Molly Shoo, 70, who actively serves with the Singapore Red Cross and takes SkillsFuture courses in art therapy and cooking courses. Her days are also packed with exercise programmes that she attends with her friends and home visits to other seniors.

"I'm not a superwoman; I get tired with back-to-back appointments, but with the help of my family, it works out. At the end of the day, it's rewarding to be able to do all these things," said Mrs Shoo, who is a housewife and has two grandchildren.

Her son, Joshua Shoo, 40, a church worker, nominated her for the award. He said: "My mother has a willingness to learn and I thought it'll be good encouragement for her and to also inspire other people to keep on learning regardless of their age."

The other two award categories - Multi-Tasker and Social Influencer - highlight how women juggle multiple hats and make positive contributions to society respectively.

Women-run small businesses were highlighted in a roadshow at Sunday's event, which drew around 800 participants. There were also dance performances, mass workouts and free workshops on basic make-up and floral arrangement.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, Dr Lim Wee Kiak and Mr Vikram Nair - all of whom are Sembawang GRC grassroots advisers - attended the event.

The festival's organising chairman, Ms Poh Li San, said: "There are so many good examples of outstanding women in our community, so we want to honour them and celebrate their contributions to their families and society. We hope their stories inspire others, even in times of difficulty."

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