Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rights of single parents – Suhakam seminar

Human Rights organization Suhakam got the ball rolling recently with its day long seminar on the rights of single mothers. Led by the VVIP former 1st lady Siti Hasmah, some 200 people turned up for the event. The majority were representatives from the various single mothers association from as far north as Penang and south as in Johor.

Frankly I thought the seminar should have been expanded to include single dads as well and that it would have been better to have it renamed to ‘Single Parents’ rather than it be a Single Mum’s affair.

I was roped in to give my two sen worth because Lian See wasn’t comfortable in BM and after hearing about all the usual woes faced by single mums, it seemed like the perfect platform to share about what needs to be done to get the agenda of transformation for the single parents in Malaysia moving ahead.

I kicked off my sharing with some suggestions that I hoped would be picked up by the planners and they number around 5. They include:

1. Creating a national database of poor single parents, their details and the help received from which particular organization
2. Publishing a handy booklet on the different financial aids made available to single parents both by the government and by the private sector
3. Offering more focused financial aids and seed capital so poor single parents can develop a more entrepreneurial mindset.
4. Getting the Welfare Ministry to be sensitive to the plight of single parents by increasing their monthly aid from the current RM100 a month to a higher sum to keep up with the inflationary spiral. The RM450 maximum per family should be revised to RM450 minimum per family because the cost of living is escalating year by year
5. The Welfare Ministry needs to get its act together – stop sending single parents to three different places just to get their monthly aid, to conduct home checks with reference to the charity organization that is assisting them because JS policy of giving furniture, deco items etc could well backfire since the Welfare Department would deem the contents of their home as evidence of obvious wealth!

Will Suhakam convey these suggestions to the government? Will the relevant government organizations or agencies ferret out the truth behind such suggestions? If they do, then the seminar would have proven its worth, if nothing worthwhile emerges from this daylong discussions, then it would be one more exercise in futility that Malaysia is fast gaining a sour reputation for. More’s the pity if it does happen that way!

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