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Joanne O'Garro

Many single mothers face exploitation and discrimination in myriad ways, from family and friends, in the workplace, eviction and unemployment, while some places for rent do not allow children.

Single Mothers Association of T&T (SMATT) Communications Officer Joanne O’Garro said if their working hours were reduced due to COVID-19, their pay was halved, making it difficult to pay their bills, rent, purchase food, maintain their children and find a caregiver for them. It means that their meagre earnings are gone in a matter of days.

O’Garro said another major challenge single mothers faced was the stigma from society, and being subjected to insensitive remarks from the general public and even counsellors.

She said some members have been told “if you didn’t make all those children, you wouldn’t have problems.” She said during counselling a member was even told “to look for a man to help her.”

She said single mothers faced many challenges and needed as much assistance as they can get–from food, clothing, housing, and recommending that lower-income housing should be made available to them.

O’Garro said the association helped single mothers network and communicate with each other on social media, sharing information on where they can secure alternate accommodations, employment opportunities, minders and other assistance.

Nothing to feel bad about reaching out for help–Cox

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox said single-parent female-headed families are more at risk of facing challenges like poverty, unemployment, underemployment, homelessness and a host of other social issues.

She said the ministry had a primary role to play when these issues affected such families.

Cox said more than 82 per cent of food support payments are made to female-headed households and females head over 70 per cent of the Public Assistance Grants for families.

She said the majority of the ministry’s clientèle comprised female-headed households, so there was absolutely nothing to feel bad about for any single mother to reach out for assistance for herself and her children.

She said she wanted to encourage women who were faced with these circumstances to come forward and let themselves be known.

Cox said several grants, services and training programmes can be accessed once people meet the requirement.

She said at the ministry, families can access Public Assistance Grants, Food Support, Rental Assistance, Household Items Grants, House Repairs and even a Seed Grant to start up a small business or pursue training to help them set up a business.

Cox said that the Family Services Division of the Ministry of Social Development also provided counselling services to families inclusive of single parents.

Cox said that she gave an assurance during the budget debate to foster better relationships, build rapport and engage citizens, troubleshoot problems, facilitate the removal of bottlenecks within the ministry and provide the most direct and practical solutions in a caring and professional manner.

She said in keeping with the whole-of-Government approach, the ministry wished to identify some other programmes and initiatives being offered by various ministries across T&T to assist single mothers to become employable or to supplement their existing incomes both in the short term and medium term.

These programmes are as follows:

In Trinidad:

*Ministry of Sports and Community Development

*Programme and 40 Under 40 Programme

Ministry of Education

*Helping You Prepare for Employment (HYPE)

Ministry of Labour

*Entrepreneurial Skills Training

Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs

*Community Education (SHORT Skills Training Programme,

Life-skills, Employability, Entrepreneurship, Activism, and Patriotism (LEEAP)

*Ministry of Social Development and Family Services:

Adult Education Programmes

Public Assistance

National Family Services)

In Tobago:

Division of Health and Wellness and Family Development (THA)

*The Realisation and Economic Achievement Project (REACH) and

*Programmes for Adolescent Mothers (PAM)

‘Shedding light’

After the article ‘Single Mother Struggling to Cope’, was posted online last Sunday, Shierneil Kimkeran said “I want to bring context and clarification to the article. The interview was done to represent the Single Mothers Association of Trinidad and Tobago, being a voice, shedding light on the unique needs of single mothers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and inspire perseverance to those in a similar situation.”