SINGAPORE - After giving birth when she was just 19, Ms Hannah Kasture Selvarajan went through a dark period as she juggled caregiving with the almost daily ordeal of finding a place to sleep for the night.
With no support from her former boyfriend and no permanent home after her divorced parents sold their homes and went to live with relatives and friends, Ms Hannah, now 34, resorted to self-harm as a coping mechanism.
That was when she realised she needed to seek help by reaching out to community organisations and a family service centre, which referred her to several homes over the years.
She now lives in a two-room HDB rental flat as the sole caregiver of her four children aged 15, 11, five and three.
In March this year, Ms Hannah's situation became more hopeful when she connected with Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT), a charity that seeks to empower underprivileged women, aged 20 to 60, from low-income families, which DOT defines as living on $200 to less than $650 per capita per month.
In May, Ms Hannah graduated from DOT's Confidence Curriculum Programme, a series of workshops over eight weeks aimed at helping beneficiaries regain the confidence to step out into the workforce.
Since 2019, more than 200 women have graduated from the programme, and more than 60 per cent of those who secured jobs have remained employed for over six months.
With DOT's support, Ms Hannah also secured a volunteer position with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, where she goes door to door as an engagement officer to understand the needs of vulnerable residents.
She said: "DOT sees the real potential in everyone, so I'm able to create my pathway from here. What I have gained from DOT is also what I want to give to others."
DOT, which was founded in 2014 by Ms Carrie Tan, who is now an MP for Nee Soon GRC,has supported more than 1,000 beneficiaries by providing resources such as skills training and job search services to help them achieve financial independence.
The cost of running its programmes can range from $10,000 to more than $200,000, depending on the number of participants and duration. They are funded by DOT's corporate partners and individual donors.
President Halimah Yacob visited the organisation on Thursday (July 15), and she spoke with several of DOT's beneficiaries and corporate partners.
She also learnt more about the Confidence Curriculum Programme, which is funded by the President's Challenge Empowering for Life Fund (ELF).
ELF was announced in 2018 by Madam Halimah, as part of a refocus of the President's Challenge towards skills upgrading and employment of vulnerable groups.
A total of $20 million has been set aside over five years, through funds raised by the President's Challenge and a matching amount from the Ministry of Finance.
Emphasising the importance of equipping women with skills to achieve social mobility in the long run, Madam Halimah said: "We want to empower these mothers so they have sustainable ways of taking care of themselves and their families... The children can grow and be better off, so they aren't caught in the poverty trap. Supporting the mothers is a win-win strategy to bring up a better generation of children."
On what else can be done to uplift underprivileged women, she added: "We need to see the situation that women are faced with, for example, young single mothers. It's not that they don't want to make an effort to take care of themselves and their children, but (sometimes they can't) because of the difficulties they face. Understanding that, and giving them an opportunity, is very important."