Grassroots mothers striving together — “Walk With Us” under the pandemic
““The pandemic is going to be the death of me!” Kay Wong, a registered social worker at the Kwun Tong Methodist Social Service-AGAPE Community Care Center recalled the first line she heard from a service user during the pandemic. “Many families were stuck at home during the pandemic. I work with grassroots families and sub-divided flats residents, most of them are female caregivers who are under a lot of stress and work 24/7 taking care of their children. The stress they are facing is no less than their breadwinner spouses. Due to gender stereotypes and norms, their caregiving duties are often taken for granted by their spouses, and even themselves. They were never given the chance to vent their stress and unhappy feelings.” Kay admits that her work does not expect her to immediately ask the husbands to take up housework, but rather, it requires her to affirm these women’s worth and ability, encouraging them to take care of themselves. The funding by HER Fund led to the emergence of the gender conscious project “Walk with us”.
The project included playback theatre training. Yanny is a participant who reflects on the project's outcomes. “I never used to talk much before. I was negative, and I even thought about committing suicide. I finally realised how unique everyone is after meeting Kay. Through the drama teacher’s guidance and the participants playing each other’s roles in depicting a mother’s emotions, I began to feel that there are people who understand me. We share our worries and problems, and we are not alone. I can now express myself and even take the effort to help and encourage other mothers now that I know how.”
"Our cohorts have witnessed the improvements of Yanny in the past two years," said Cindy, a single mother who was standing next to Yanny. When asked about the most unforgettable experience, both interviewees have the same answer, “One time we were sharing with our instructor, that we were our mothers’ everything. But now, we are devoting all of ourselves to our family. All the participants hugged each other and cried at that time. We all believe it is time for us to take care of ourselves.” Cindy added that when she started to join the centre’s activities and build her interest, her relationship with her 11-year-old daughter began to ease up. “I no longer put all my energy and stress on her. She became more relaxed to communicate with me, and even occasionally encourage me.” Kay pointed out that Cindy and her daughter had worked as one of the activity Emcees together. That was a genuinely significant breakthrough.
Kay said that her feminist consciousness aligned with HER Fund’s objectives. Participating in “Advance Project Design Using Gender Perspective” organised by HER Fund has strengthened her beliefs and allowed her to apply them to her work. These have prompted her to submit a grant application. Unlike what was proposed in the initial application, HER Fund’s funding is flexible especially during the epidemic, enabling physical activities to switch to an online format. To alleviate the stress brought by the pandemic, HER Fund even provided training in online teaching, Kay was grateful to HER Fund for organising activities that connect the organisations. This provided her inspiration and she got to know the mentor of the playback theatre session. All these have helped the participating grassroots women to get to know an unusual side of themselves.
During the interview, Kay, who was ready to start a new career, shed tears from time to time. Yanny patted Kay’s shoulder and comforted her, said,” You have nothing to worry about. We are very tough and strong. I told myself that I would not weep because I wanted to leave you with the greatest memory possible. Thank you very much for all of your hard work.” Throwing back to the formerly quiet and pessimistic Yanny can now take the initiative to comfort others, this is certainly the greatest satisfaction. This outcome also achieved HER Fund’s intention to provide grants for capacity building and peer growth for marginalised women.
Translation: Yasmine Fali (intern)