SINGAPORE - Charities and volunteer networks with a focus on helping women have stepped up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Daughters Of Tomorrow, which matches underprivileged women with employment opportunities, distributed $58,000 worth of grocery vouchers from 2020 to last year.
It was the first time the charity saw a need to provide additional food support since it was founded in 2014 - after learning from a survey of its community that fresh food was one of the women's top needs.
Ms Fannie Lim, the charity's executive director, said: "We want women to go through our job readiness programmes, but if they are hungry, they would not have time to upskill and look for jobs."
Other organisations told The Straits Times that new initiatives in the past two years to support women include support for home-based businesses, and mentorship and mental health initiatives.
Madam Tuminah Sapawi, chief executive of the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS), noted that many women and families turned to home-based businesses during the pandemic for additional income. PPIS launched a programme to help women professionalise such businesses.
Volunteer-led Her Rise Above mentors women in challenging situations who start their own businesses.
Its co-founder Sapna K. Malhotra said that home-based businesses provide women with the flexibility to earn money even while caregiving responsibilities require them to be at home.
"Many of our ladies have young children, and sometimes special needs children, or may be facing a physical or mental health issue. Some of them do work but they also need the supplemental income."
Ms Shailey Hingorani, head of research and advocacy at the Association of Women for Action and Research, added: "Financial crises exacerbate stress, particularly for women who already earn less than their male counterparts on average and tend to shoulder the bulk of unpaid domestic and care labour."
Project Smile, a charity founded in 2010 to empower underprivileged women primarily through handicraft training, raised about $35,000 last year through Smile-a-thon, a month-long walkathon supported by the Rotary Club.
The money raised helped fund its sewing and art workshops, and new programmes such as a cooking initiative last October.
To help low-income mothers access work opportunities outside the home, Daughters Of Tomorrow facilitates and supports a Community Childminding Network that looks after the children of these women during after-school hours. All childminders are low-income women from its community.
Mental well-being has also been a priority of these organisations.
PPIS said it will be launching a one-stop support centre in the second half of this year, which will support women's career, legal and wellness needs.
Project Green Ribbon, a non-profit organisation with a focus on mental wellness, provides community outreach talks and mentoring programmes.
The support of volunteers has been crucial for these organisations to help more women during the pandemic.
The National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre said 1,208 volunteers signed up to support women's causes on its Giving.sg platform last year, an increase from the 530 in 2020.
Mummy Yummy, a vegan restaurant started by four mothers, distributes about 30,000 meals a month to the needy. Its pool of 3,000 active volunteers resumed meal deliveries last December after Covid-19 restrictions eased.
Welcoming the increase in volunteerism and support for women causes, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said: "Industries that many women participate in such as food and beverage, hospitality, retail, have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
"I am heartened to see that there is a strong sense of solidarity among Singaporeans, and many want to step forward to help others during the pandemic."
Where to volunteer
Daughters Of Tomorrow
Go to the Daughters Of Tomorrow's 7 Year Movement page.
Singapore Muslim Women's Association
Those interested can sign up as a volunteer to help with projects. Mummy Yummy runs a pay-as-you-wish vegetarian hawker stall, V4 Vegetarian, at Ayer Rajah Food Centre. More information can be found on its Facebook page.
Project Green Ribbon
Volunteer to help at Project Green Ribbon.
Donate, buy products or volunteer at the Project Smile website.