Parenting is Hard. Single Motherhood is Harder.
Ava Soh, who designed a wearable NFT to support Ukraine’s war efforts (worn by President Zelenskyy during his virtual address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore), wrote that her inspiration behind using a young girl in her illustration was the fact that “half the world are women, and the other half, sons.” The mightiness of this spirit was something that I encountered again and again, in multiple forms, as I waded into my research of the challenges that single mothers faced.
There are multiple snags that single mothers can face that don’t seem obvious at first glance to a person going through the normal vagaries of life - like having to show a marriage certificate in order to purchase new HDB flats below the age of 35; or the fact that equal maternity leave was only extended to single unwed mothers as recently as 2017.
Single mothers who have access to family or a social community of friends can benefit from this support. Those that don’t tend to face significant challenges. A substantial portion of single mothers without existing social support in Singapore tend to be foreign brides, who leave their home country to marry Singaporean men. Oftentimes, due to cultural differences or linguistic barriers, these women can find themselves isolated without knowledge of the legal system or without any social support. Worse still, their immigration status can affect their ability to find a job and provide for themselves and their children. There are Singaporeans, too, with stories that deserve attention. Despite being in familiar surroundings, Singaporean single mothers describe stigma from friends and family members, and judgment from quarters they had hoped for support from. They also face similar financial difficulties, often having to weigh giving up their career to care for their child.
Still, not all is bleak. Strength and support run deep. Groups like Daughters of Tomorrow and AWARE tirelessly campaign for the rights of single mothers. Government policies have become more inclusive over the years — with Members of Parliament calling for greater support for single parents. YWLC, too, continues to work with organisations like Star Shelter and SCWO to provide programmes, workshops and support for beneficiaries; in order to create a better environment for women and children. YWLC will be organising a panel discussion to build awareness of these issues in Singapore. Do keep a look out and come join us!
This article is part of the Social Impact column by the Social Impact subcommittee that focuses on social causes concerning women and children. Click here to learn more about the subcommittee and its initiatives.
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Author: Serene Cai
Editor: Audrey Tim