daughters of tomorrow fannie lim

“It’s OK to start small,” Fannie Lim, executive director of Daughters Of Tomorrow, offers, when we ask her about giving back. “Even if you are unsure, just try something – anything.”

“If it feels awkward because you don’t quite know what to do or where to begin, ask a friend along and explore together. At Daughters Of Tomorrow, we’re just trying to make things better for women so if you share that interest, talk to us!”

And the 41-year-old will have you know that it’s not marketing spew. In 2016, while exploring part-time work opportunities, the business development manager-turned-stay-at-home-mum accepted a temporary assignment with Daughters Of Tomorrow.

Founded in 2014, Daughters Of Tomorrow has supported more than 1,100 women in Singapore through skills training, job bridging and befriending programmes. These women come from families that earn between $200 and $650 per month, and struggle to break out of unemployment and poverty.

Among them, 82% have secondary school education or lower, and 44% are single mothers. They haven’t been able to access employment due to factors such as lack of confidence, practical support, and awareness. 

Fannie Lim says becoming executive director of Daughters Of Tomorrow was not something she’d aspired to do. The courage to accept the challenge came from keeping her eye on the bigger picture, she adds.  

“It was serendipitous… I had no idea this organisation existed,” Fannie, a mother of three kids aged between 12 and 8, recalls. “Also, the working hours weren’t compatible. But I wanted to try out the people sector. So I was glad to be eventually offered a role as a volunteer and given a stipend.”

Since then, she’s worked passionately to connect low-income women to job opportunities and enabled them towards financial independence and social mobility. By establishing community partnerships with family service centres and constituencies, she also helps create an effective holistic support network for these women.   

More than two years into her role as executive director, Fannie says there’s more to be done. A new focused skillset and behavioural development training programme simulates a workplace environment – especially useful for women who have been away from the workforce for a while. A recurring donation campaign to strengthen social capital is in the works too, so beneficiaries can look forward to a stronger community childminding network, among others.    

“To positively impact someone is to enable her to move to a better space, according to how she defines “better” rather than how we’d imagine it.”

As she reminds: “We are in a better position oft times not because we are smarter or better. Usually, it’s because we were in an advantageous position to begin with… You are in a privileged position to give. Always be thankful for that opportunity.”

You started out with Daughters Of Tomorrow in 2016 as a volunteer, then stepped up to become executive director in 2020. What was the turning point in this journey?

I was covering for another volunteer who went on a break. Several months later, when some funding came through, our founder Carrie Tan offered me part-time employment. My three kids were quite young then, so I thought it’d be ideal till my youngest entered primary school.

The turning point came in 2020 when Carrie embarked on a political career, and I was invited to assume the leadership role in Daughters Of Tomorrow. It was a hard decision – apart from wanting to remain a part-time stay-at-home-mum, I also enjoyed my role in operational planning.

Leading Daughters Of Tomorrow was not something I’d dreamt of or aspired to do. While I was grateful for the faith placed in me by the Board and Carrie, I took some time to mull it over. But having my eye on the bigger picture gave me sufficient courage to take up the challenge – and that courage continues to grow. 

You mentioned how Daughters Of Tomorrow’s mission resonated with your own journey. How did it inspire you to step up?

Prior to Daughters Of Tomorrow, I’ve never taken much time to reflect deeply on my own journey. Being here, however, gave me many opportunities for that. Attending some of the workshops we organised and listening to women sharing about their experiences reminded me of my own hard times while growing up.

When I was a child, my mother struggled to make ends meet – she was illiterate and didn’t get much financial and emotional support from my father. But she worked hard to fulfil her dream of giving her four daughters an education, which she never had as she had to care for her younger siblings.

Inevitably, we lacked resources to partake in social activities. For example, during primary school, I opted out of an overseas competition because I didn’t want to burden her with the request for money.  

With Daughters Of Tomorrow, I’m coming full circle. From wanting so much to help my mum but couldn’t, I now help to empower other women (many of them mothers) to create a better future for themselves and their children.

You oversee everything from programme planning to community and corporate outreach, as well as fundraising and volunteer recruitment. What are challenges to breaking out of poverty?

There seems to be a disconnect between how the funding model is growing in emphasis to create impactful outcomes and how organisations involved to create these outcomes are being funded.

As much as I appreciate the bid for efficiency and effectiveness to help individuals or organisations to improve, there is not enough “patient capital” in the system, as in long-term investment where investors must wait considerable time before seeing their returns of investment.

It would require an increase of patient capital to improve our chances of creating impactful outcomes for all stakeholders involved, especially for those trapped in the (sometimes intergenerational) poverty cycle.

You worked in business development before becoming a stay-at-home-mom, then returned to the workforce. How has this made you more empathetic to the women Daughters Of Tomorrow serves?

When I worked full-time, I knew that if I set my mind to something, I’d achieve the results. But as I was trying to return to the workforce after several years of full-time motherhood, I realised how little confidence I owned.

At one interview, when asked if I could do a, b, and c, I fell quiet and could only answer feebly, “I’m not sure but I will try”. I couldn’t figure out what jobs I could take on with the hours I wanted. I felt unsure of myself and often wondered about the value I could bring to the organisation.  

Once, after I’d started my part-time position at Daughters Of Tomorrow, I was preparing to leave home for an appointment when my child asked if I could complete an activity with him. Although I hesitated, I finally obliged and ended up slightly late. It led me to think if I would have judged other colleagues if they’d done the same.

Define “impact”.

To positively impact someone is to enable her to move to a better space, according to how she defines “better” rather than how we’d imagine it.  

You can help to empower women and enable families through various programmes: Befriender, Volunteer Childminder, Supportive Employer, Poverty Sensitisation Workshops, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Donation/Fundraising. Find out more about these opportunities at Daughters of Tomorrow here.

Photography: Studio Aeonz
Set Styling and Creative Direction: BDVA
Clothing and Accessories: Interviewee’s own
Makeup and Hair: Fifty Shades Makeup Academy
Products: COTY Inc.