Vulnerable young girls need more help: President

President Halimah Yacob, with Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (left) and MP Christopher De Souza (second from left), at HCSA Dayspring in Turf Club Road yesterday. Madam Halimah is cradling fo
President Halimah Yacob, with Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (left) and MP Christopher De Souza (second from left), at HCSA Dayspring in Turf Club Road yesterday. Madam Halimah is cradling four-month-old Nurul Humaira Abdullah whose mother Nayli Nur Damia (holding her other daughter Zahra Inarah) is getting help from the centre.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Special attention should be given to abuse prevention, says Madam Halimah

More needs to be done to help vulnerable young girls, especially to prevent abuse, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

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 - whether at home, outside the home or 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 their rights are, what they can do, what they can prevent others from doing," she said.

President Halimah was speaking to reporters after a visit to HCSA Dayspring in Turf Club Road, a centre for vulnerable teenagers and women.

Among those she met at the centre, which is part of social service organisation HCSA Community Services, were single mothers and their children in a new programme called Single Parents Informed, Involved and Included (Spin). Spin, started by HCSA Dayspring in April, is helping 25 single mothers and their children with emotional support and job search skills.

Volunteers trained in basic counselling and crisis management skills, such as suicide prevention and child protection, befriend the women, who also have the support of a social worker throughout the 12-month programme. A total of 33 active volunteers are involved, said social worker Jessica Vincent.

EDUCATION AND AWARENESS CRUCIAL

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 their rights are, what they can do, what they can prevent others from doing.

MADAM HALIMAH YACOB, on preventing abuse of young girls.

Financial aid does not seem to be the most pressing concern of some single parents, she noted, saying that most of those on the Spin scheme are vulnerable and face caregiving stress and emotional issues.

"We want to provide the support they're not getting from family and friends," she said.

Among them is Ms Nayli Nur Damia, 23, who said she felt depressed after the birth of her second daughter four months ago as she is the sole caregiver.

"I didn't know how to take care of two kids at one time and I had a lot of negative thoughts," she said.

Now, a Spin volunteer visits her weekly and sometimes takes her out for coffee. Ms Jessica has also helped Ms Nayli prepare her resume for job interviews.

"The volunteers are my friends and I feel more confident now," said Ms Nayli, who hopes to marry her boyfriend next year.

Madam Halimah's visit to HCSA starts another busy week of meeting social service organisations, in her second week in office.

Yesterday, she also met girls at HCSA's Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre, which provides abused girls between the ages of 12 and 16 with therapy and a home. It can house 12, and has helped 68 since it started in 2011.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Vulnerable young girls need more help: President'. Print Edition | Subscribe