KLANG, March 2, 2015:
“I’m a single mother with nine children. The meagre income I make monthly is barely enough to support our very basic needs.”
“My husband left me and my four children 15 years ago. I used to work as a cleaner, but I have had no job for the past two months.”
These were some of the sad stories heard at the Single Mums Reach Out programme held at MySkills Foundation located here in Port Klang yesterday.
Forty-nine single mothers from the Indian community around Klang Valley attended the programme organised by University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) alumni.
They got together for a single cause — to empower and better the lives of these single mothers.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
This proverb best describes the initiative taken by the alumni who, with the help of Myskills Foundation, aim to equip the women with skills that can benefit them in the long run.
“We UKM graduates, from 1980 until now, got together through a WhatsApp group. It initially was only meant to keep us connected.
“But we soon realised that most of us were professionals who have gone through some sort of difficulties growing up. So we decided to reach out to the people and help them.
“We chose single mothers because unlike other kinds of underprivileged groups, like orphans and old folks, this particular group is very difficult to identify at a particular locality as they are normally not in any particular organisation.
“MySkills foundation has been helping a few students from dysfunctional and very poor Indian homes where the head is the mother.
“So I asked them to help gather these women for us to assist,” said project organiser Dr S. Thilagavathi.
She told The Rakyat Post that the alumni had identified four unique skills that were high in demand in the Indian community — bridal make-up, catering, Deepavali snacks and tailoring.
“We want to empower them, give them confidence and get them to do business on their own.
“The government provides a lot of financial help, but with no skills and no education, they can’t market themselves, their business or their products.
“Through this project, we will equip them with the skills they need.
“In the next phase, we will bring in individuals from different organisations who are going to give them micro credit financing as well as business opportunities.”
A participant, 37-year-old K. Nadamani, told The Rakyat Post that she used to own a food stall. This was later stolen, leaving her with no other means to start her business anew.
“I don’t know how to conduct business properly as I come from a family that is not educated.
“I only know how to cook, but with no money or opportunity to fully benefit from it, I can’t really do anything with my skill.
“I’m working as a promoter at a shopping mall now, but I take home a minimal salary that is barely enough to support my nine children.
“I hope, through this project, I can be provided with the platform to maybe have my own catering business,” she said with a shy grin.
Another participant, who has been unemployed for several months, P. Palaniamah, 51, said her inability to read or write left her with very limited options to work and her age made it even more difficult.
“I have four children and they are all living with me. Sometimes, life gets so hard that I don’t even know what to do.
“I have only worked as a cleaner, but most companies prefer to hire the younger ones rather than an old frail woman like me.
“I want to make traditional Indian snacks. I don’t know how, but the organisers said they can help teach me how.
“I don’t know. I hope this project can help make my life at least a little better.
“I don’t need a lot of money, just enough to help me and my children live a normal life.”