Shubha Narayan dreams about a future where everyone will accept one another as human beings first, instead of according to origin, race, colour and creed. A women support & development manager with Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT), she leads a team of more than 100 volunteer Befrienders. Together, they extend friendship, assess needs, and offer emotional and practical support to beneficiaries to enable them to secure and sustain employment.
Befriending programmes, along with skills training and job bridging, are among strategies by DOT to empower underprivileged women and enable their families. Founded in 2014, DOT has supported more than 1,100 women in Singapore towards financial independence and social mobility.
Shubha, who has a master’s degree in Counselling, taps into her training and extensive hands-on experience to equip and support volunteer Befrienders with skills and information so they become effective enablers of women. At the same time, she also helps to convey their needs to the organisation in order to refine its resourcing priorities and programme design.
The 50-something is also mother to a grown-up child. Hence she understands why it is crucial that women break out of unemployment and poverty – and how helping them to do so can help build a socially integrative society in Singapore.
These women come from families that earn between $200 and $650 per month, and struggle to break out of unemployment and poverty. According to MSF Comcare as well as DOT’s estimation from more than 60 social service centres’ capacities, more than 25,000 families in Singapore struggle to find and sustain a livelihood. At least 27 per cent of people with an annual income of $20,000 or less have mental wellness issues such as depression and anxiety.
By connecting them to volunteers and community resources, DOT further improves job opportunities for these women, hence empowering them to achieve financial independence and fulfil their potential.
Why did you decide to join Daughters Of Tomorrow?
I worked as a banker in Kolkata, India, until 1997. I decided to become a stay-at-home mother; my husband travelled extensively for his job and I wanted to be present for my child, who was only three years old then.
Giving back, however, was something I continued to do. I’d volunteered at the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity back in Kolkata. Since arriving in Singapore, I volunteered as a counsellor at the Jamiyah Children’s Home (closed since December 2021), Marine Parade Family Service Centre, and HealthServe.
I also started volunteering as a Befriender with Daughters Of Tomorrow. Here, I helped to support the emotional and psychological needs of beneficiaries, by listening to their problems and connecting them to relevant resources and opportunities. I wasn’t looking to return to full-time work but when I was asked to come on board as its women support & development manager, I knew I had to say yes. And I haven’t looked back since!
You have been with Daughters Of Tomorrow for more than two years. What’s the most important life lesson you’ve picked up from working with the beneficiaries?
The women face many different challenges. But we believe that women are the best judge of their lives and can find their solution. That’s why our work goes a long way – by being present to listen to their problems and connecting them to available resources.
I enjoy the sense of peace and fulfilment my work at Daughters Of Tomorrow gives me. I don’t just learn something new every day; I also learn to deal with adversity and find meaningful connections in life.
Describe your proudest achievement.
Covid-19 restrictions led people to spend most of their time at home. While it meant more time with the family, it also became overwhelming for some mothers who felt isolated from friends or family members.
To reach out to these women, we started an online support group called Talk Therapy in 2020. During these monthly sessions, the women shared about their challenges with one another and seek advice from a trained counsellor. Everyone looked forward to the sessions and clearly drew strength and support from one another, so we continued with this even after restrictions were lifted.
Two of our beneficiaries dialled in even when they were in hospital – one seeking treatment for Covid-19, and the other recovering from breast cancer surgery. These little moments of strength and solidarity show us that Daughters Of Tomorrow is building a community of women who can do anything they set their minds to.
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.