‘No one should face what I went through’

manis-baba

PETALING JAYA: Manis Baba, a 64-year-old single mother, hopes for government action to ensure that no other person will experience the hardship she faced when she was younger and had to raise four children on her own.

Recalling her past, Manis said that she was forced to auction her house and file for bankruptcy after her husband left her and the children 14 years ago.

“It’s hard to express in words the pain and the hardship I had to go through,” she told FMT. “I don’t want any other woman to have to go through that same pain.”

After the house was auctioned off, she and her four children went to live with her parents in a house built on rented land.

In order to make ends meet, she said, she worked as a cleaner at a hotel and earned only RM200 a month.

In all those years of hardship, she envied people who were entitled to government subsidies or other forms of assistance. She wondered why single mothers were left out.

She says this hasn’t changed. “It’s almost as if the government has completely forgotten about us single mothers. And the number of single mothers is rising.”

Single Mothers Friends’ Network coordinator Veronica Anne Ratnam, in a recent statement, noted that according to 2010 statistics gathered from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, there were 830,000 single mothers in the country. She said the number would have risen by now.

According to a ministry official, the 2010 statistics were the latest on file.

Manis claimed that it would be impossible for a mother to take care of even one child if she earned less than RM2,000 a month today.

“Let’s say you give your child only RM200 a month, what about rent? Even if it’s your own house, you’d still have to pay for utilities.

“Then you have to think about the GST (Goods and Service Tax). If you spend RM100, you have to add another RM6. That’s enough to buy you fish and vegetables.

“Now I’m only talking about the bare minimum here. What if the mother has more than one child or if someone gets sick? Medicine costs money too.”

She said she wondered whether some incidents of child rape happened because children were left alone at home when single mothers had to go to work.

“It’s not like we can afford a nanny,” she said.

Manis’ four children are all grown up now. But her troubles are far from over. She may have to leave her late parents’ home. The person who owned the land on which the house was built is dead and his children are telling her to move out. She claims that she has documents to prove that their late father had guaranteed that he would find her another place if he ever needed to use the land for something else.

“I don’t know whether they can force me to leave eventually,” she said.

“That’s why if there’s anyone out there who’s willing to fight for all of us single mothers, that person will have my support 100 per cent.”

The Single Mothers Friends’ Network has complained that Budget 2017 failed to address the problems faced by single mothers. Veronica was reported as saying last Monday that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had twice ignored the group’s proposals.

The group, which is a coalition of NGOs, submitted proposals on February 25 and June 16 seeking assistance in providing single mothers with safe homes, balanced diets and learning assistance for their children, such as tuition classes when the mothers are at work.

It also proposed that “children’s activity centres” be made available at every low cost housing area. It suggested that these centres be served by psychologists, among other professionals.