Our Life Beyond Housewives - Nurturing New Female Leaders
“As caretakers, a lot of grassroots women faced indescribable physical and mental stress managing the household single-handedly and unpaid. They constantly pour themselves into work that they neglected their health, self-worth, needs, interests and aspirations. They assumed the identities of wives and mothers, to the point of having their real names forgotten,” lamented Tang Wai Shan, Shanna, consultant social worker at Virtuous Lady Club 2011, ELCHK Login Club For New Arrivals, laying bare the common physical and mental struggles of grassroots women.
Since the establishment of Virtuous Lady Club 2011, a mutual help group for grassroots women, consultant social workers like Shanna have been offering advice and support to the Club’s committee members, deeply moved by the women’s dedication of time and effort to voluntary organisational work, and their transformation and growth as a result.
“I didn’t know much other than my enthusiasm for making handicraft. So, when they asked me to takeover the position of chairperson, I felt really worried and helpless,” said Selina, the new Chairperson of Virtuous Lady Club 2011, who often expressed her wariness when she first assumed the role. Yet, as Shanna remarked, she was one of the most inspiring grassroots women.
“The activities at Virtuous Lady Club 2011 were diverse. There were singing performances showcasing members’ potentials. Committee members, social workers leading them, and participants were very content. But when I took over [the chairperson position], I realised the difference in pace among committee members. They weren’t very coordinated or communicating enough, and the work division was inefficient,” recounted Selina.
Selina’s comments illuminated her leadership potential, which surprised Ms. Wong, facilitator of the Transformative Feminist Leadership Programme under HER Fund. “During a workshop where participants shared their imagination of their respective organisations’ path forward, a lot of the participants were suggesting more practical goals of increasing number of events and members. Selina, on the other hand, detailed the plan for Virtuous Lady Club 2011 to have a 1,000 sq. ft. space that includes office space, rooms for childcare, and a cafe. Those are aspirations with vision and leadership.”
Selina humbly thanked for the help from HER Fund, social workers, and her confidante Mokmok, who was a fellow matchmade to her by HER Fund. Reminiscing her first time meeting Mokmok, Selina said, “I thought I could consult her on how to be a chairperson right away. Instead, she sat me down first, and we practiced mindfulness exercises together. That was a memorable experience. She is both a teacher and a friend to me, offering me insight into being a chairperson, and being my “treehole” of inner thoughts.” With Mokmok’s heartfelt support, Selina was able to find an exit to her concerns.
“HER Fund is the first to care for the body, mind and spiritual development of members of Virtuous Lady Club 2011 in addition to providing financial support,” added Shanna, who applauded HER Fund’s genuine companionship with their beneficiaries. “They have a lot of additional, humanised support, like offering one-on-one leader fellowships and allowing re-allocation of fundings with respect to COVID-19. The staff were quick to answer our questions and difficulties with their all-rounded aid.” Living up to the spirit of companionship, HER Fund’s effort has allowed beneficiaries to gain more than what was offered and thrive.
Interviewed and written by: Lam Chi Chung
Translated by: Donald Cheung