Aware announces support services in 5 languages and seed fund for emerging women's rights groups

Ms Nur Shazlina Sulaiman, the founder of social enterprise Puzzles SG, was given the Women's Economic Empowerment award.
Ms Nur Shazlina Sulaiman, the founder of social enterprise Puzzles SG, was given the Women's Economic Empowerment award. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Women in need of help, including those from minority communities, will get better support from gender equality group Aware which will from March 2018 offer some services in all four official languages and Hindi.

These services include a helpline, and befriending support - such as by accompanying women to places such as police stations, hospitals and courts, and other support groups.

Counselling services are already offered in the four official languages here and Hindi.

At the Love Ball at St Regis Singapore on Friday (Sept 8), Aware also announced the launch of the Power Fund: Women's Fund For Change, to provide emerging women's rights groups with seed funding and other resources.

The first batch of grantees will be announced in November. The group expects to support at least 10 organisations or individuals, with the amount given depending on their respective project budgets. Aware declined to reveal the overall sum of the Power Fund.

The group is also making its services more accessible to all women by training more staff and volunteers to run its services in the four official languages and Hindi. Previously, they were run mostly only in English and Mandarin.

It also wants to develop its knowledge of Syariah law in order to better support Muslim women.

Ms Jolene Tan, Aware's head of advocacy and research, told The Straits Times: "Our most consistent provision in the past has been in English and Mandarin, but we have from time to time assisted Malay- and Tamil-speaking women when resources have permitted. However, we would like this support to be more consistently available, hence the present improvements.

"We are looking to broaden access to make our services more accessible to any woman who needs them."

The annual gala event, hosted by stage actors Pam Oei and Siti Khalijah, drew 400 guests who raised $365,651 to support Aware's programmes and services. The money will also go towards the group's public education programmes and research and advocacy efforts.

Said Aware's executive director Corinna Lim: "Our donors and supporters top themselves every year at the Ball. The fundraising gala has made a name for itself as an unmissable opportunity to transform women's lives and contribute in a big way to the women's movement in Singapore.

"We've been running the Women's Helpline for 25 years and have supported over 25,000 callers since we started. Throughout the years, it's become clear we need to ensure that every woman can access and feels welcomed in our support network."

The annual Aware Awards were also given out at the ball.

The Champions for Gender Equality and Justice awards to went to Women and Law in Islam, a group that promotes gender equality in Islam, and Eden Law Corporation, a law firm that has aided many women - such as divorcees, survivors of domestic violence and single mothers - through a low-bono business model.

Crisis shelter, Casa Raudha Women Home, which has sheltered and supported 760 women since 2008, bagged the Safe Haven award.

The Champions for Women's Economic Empowerment award was given to Ms Ieshah Abdul Majid and her daughter, Ms Nur Shazlina Sulaiman, who provide stable employment to about 20 underprivileged people, including lower-income women and single mothers at the former's two nasi padang stalls.

Ms Shazlina, 20, co-founder of social enterprise Puzzles SG, said her mother was inspired by the generosity shown to her by a nasi padang stall owner who took her in when she was divorced and unemployed over a decade ago.

"It was really important for us to give back. An opportunity is something that can change someone's life."