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5 Critical gaps in caring for vulnerable seniors in Singapore
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Opinion

5 Critical gaps in caring for vulnerable seniors in Singapore

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Singapore is fast reaching superaged status. Life expectancy is going up while the birth rate is heading south. By 2030 – not many years from where we are today – one in four Singaporeans will be 65 years or older. More worryingly, a fifth of that cohort will be over 80 (Population in Brief 2021). 

Ageing well and quality of life are huge concerns for our elderly. The biggest challenges centre on health: physical frailty or disability, sensory impairment such as hearing loss, or chronic conditions such as dementia or diabetes. However, ageing is not just a matter of biophysical health. It is also about bolstering psychological, emotional and community support. 

Mental wellness issues, such as depression and loneliness, are a real threat to the older demographic. On top of this, many older Singaporeans worry about financial security, due to escalating care costs, inadequate retirement income and limited earning opportunities. 

Many people prefer to age at home but that too has its challenges. In this article, we highlight the critical gaps in caring for vulnerable seniors and what can be done to support them so that ageing can be enabling, empowering and meaningful.

#1 Funding rising healthcare needs

Singapore’s healthcare expenses could jump tenfold between 2016 and 2030 to over $66 billion1. Family is typically the first line of support but families are getting smaller and relationships may be estranged. Income caps also mean not everyone qualifies for government aid. 

Even when fees are subsidized, low-income seniors may struggle with costs. Women, in particular, face more financial insecurity as they tend to have interrupted employment or be in low-wage or unpaid care work. Women also tend to outlive men and are more likely to be single, widowed or divorced in old age. 

The burden lands on welfare organisations to meet the shortfall. However, causes that help the elderly don’t attract as much funding as say, education, which in Singapore receives the lion’s share of donations: in 2019, they accounted for 52.9% of total receipts of $20.8 billion (Commissioner of Charities 2020).

#2 Access to home care and assisted living

Letting people age at home or in the community and delaying institutional care is a universal goal. But as the number of seniors with mobility issues or age-related ailments increases, demand for home nursing, home therapy, meal deliveries, assistive devices and home safety and modification services (to prevent falls) will rise. There will also be a much bigger role for centre-based eldercare, such as day care, and initiatives for assisted living.

#3 Depression and suicide

Aside from physical ill health, many seniors grapple with loneliness, loss of loved ones or dependence on others. The number of elderly living alone doubled to 63,800 in 2020 from a decade ago and is set to hit 83,000 by 2030 (Singapore Department of Statistics). 

According to the Samaritans of Singapore, the number of people aged 60 and above who took their own lives reached a high at 154 deaths in 2020. That’s a 26% increase from the year before and is the highest elderly suicide death rate since 19912. There is an urgent need to support charities that connect with seniors, organise social outings or wellness activities for them, offer intergenerational bonding or assist beneficiaries with their healthcare needs such as medical appointments and screenings. 

#4 Dementia support

Dementia is our nation’s most prevalent neurodegenerative disease today, affecting one in 10 seniors. By 2030, the number of dementia patients is set to reach 92,000 – a doubling from 2015 (Dementia in the Asia Pacific Region). Dementia additionally imposes a huge burden on caregivers, many of whom are ageing themselves. We need more funding to support early diagnosis and intervention, community dementia care services such as exercise and cognitive activities as well as training and support for caregivers.

#5 End of life care

Discussions about death or end of life remain taboo. There is insufficient advance care planning as well as a lack of healthcare workers and expertise in the palliative care system. Better awareness and improved options for inpatient, home or day care hospice services are needed.

How CFS helps you do more with your giving

If you would like to help seniors who have fallen through the cracks or would like to make ageing more empowering and inclusive, we at CFS can align your giving goals with the needs of this community. We are a cause-neutral organisation that supports grantmaking to a wide range of charitable areas in Singapore. Of the 400-plus charities we evaluate and make grants to, close to 30% work with seniors. We partner with charities that focus on clearly identified problem areas or social gaps that are under-supported. Charities must also demonstrate measurable outcomes and good stewardship of funds.

A simple and cost-effective way to contribute to a variety of causes in Singapore is by setting up a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF). A DAF can be set up by an individual, a beneficiary of a will, a trust, or a family office. CFS will handle all fund administration and leverage our unparalleled insight into Singapore’s charitable landscape to provide philanthropy advice that ensures your giving is targeted, accountable and impactful. CFS strives to ensure that every grant that goes out creates positive change.

As a donor, you will save on legal expenses and enjoy upfront tax deductions at the prevailing rate on eligible donations. Donors will also receive regular statements tracking incoming donations to the DAF and outgoing disbursements to charities. CFS has an established track record when it comes to setting up DAFs and our DAF payout rates outperformed the entire US DAF industry by 12% and their community foundations by 2 times. 

If you would like to begin your giving journey with CFS, get in touch with us.

This article was written by Sunita Sue Leng, a former financial analyst and journalist, who believes that the written word can be a force for good. She hopes to someday write something worth plagiarising.

1 https://www.asiaone.com/health/elderly-health-costs-rise-tenfold-2030-report

2 https://www.sos.org.sg/pressroom/singapore-reported-452-suicide-deaths-in-2020-number-of-elderly-suicide-deaths-highest-recorded-since-1991

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Opinion

Helping Earthquake Victims in Türkiye and Syria: Ways to Donate

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The earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria on 6 February 2023 has become one of the top 10 deadliest earthquakes ever. Over 41,0001 people have been killed (as of 15 February), a death toll the United Nations expects will eventually exceed 50,0002. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred near the border of the two countries. Since then, more than 2,000 aftershocks have pummelled the devastated region.

The widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure has left millions of people without homes, access to clean water, and basic necessities.3 The disaster has also led to countless casualties and injuries. First responders from all over the world are working tirelessly to save lives. However, with each passing day, the focus is turning from search and rescue to helping the survivors in desperate need of aid.

Local authorities and international aid groups have rushed to mobilise humanitarian aid, including food, shelter, medical supplies, and clean water. UNICEF estimates that millions of children in the affected regions are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.4 The massive scale of the disaster, however, has stretched their resources thin. There are other serious challenges: freezing temperatures and snow have hampered logistical operations.5

Donations have generously poured in for non-profit organisations providing disaster relief in Türkiye and Syria. In Singapore, there was an outpouring of support through in-kind donations of warm clothing, blankets, diapers, baby food, and other supplies to the Turkish embassy. The Turkish embassy has since stopped accepting such items and encourages Singaporeans to make monetary donations instead, given the manpower and logistical challenges in processing and sending items to Türkiye.6

The sombre reality is that this crisis will have a “long tail”. Humanitarian aid groups warn that the earthquake will have an aftermath of needs that will require donations for months, or even years, after the initial aid missions end.7 For donors in Singapore, the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is your trusted advisor on how best to deploy your generosity to make a difference to earthquake victims now and beyond. 

For donors who prefer to donate directly to non-profit organisations that are providing aid on the ground, we recommend the following bona fide organisations:

Singapore Red Cross

Established in 1949, the Singapore Red Cross is the global humanitarian organisation’s local arm. It is a credible, transparent, and time-tested charity with a long track record of providing humanitarian aid and responding to emergencies. It is looking to raise $5 million for the Türkiye-Syria earthquake, which will support the needs of those affected by the disaster, including emergency shelter, first aid and food.

Mercy Relief

Headquartered in Singapore, Mercy Relief was established in 2003 to respond to human tragedies and disasters in the Asia Pacific region. Today, it is Singapore’s leading independent disaster relief agency with dedicated leadership, capacity-building expertise, and an affiliate network operating across the entire disaster management cycle. Mercy Relief has launched a fundraiser for the earthquake with a target of $100,000. The money will provide hot meals, ready and instant food, drinking water, hygiene kits, blankets, and shelter tents to the worst affected and vulnerable families.

Philanthropy can play a pivotal role in alleviating the worst of natural disasters. At CFS, we are encouraged by how so many have stepped up to help victims of the Türkiye-Syria earthquake. However, much more needs to be done, given the scale of this tragedy. With our donor-advised funds (DAFs), we enable donors to respond better to unexpected needs. By pooling our resources, knowledge and experience, we convene donors, charities and other organisations in the community to quickly support those in need.   

To learn more about our DAFs, please click here.

References: 

    1. BBC. (15 February 2023). Women pulled alive from Turkey quake debris nine days on. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-64653216
    2. Deutsche Welle. (12 February 2023). Turkey-Syria earthquakes: UN expects death toll above 50,000.
      https://www.dw.com/en/turkey-syria-earthquakes-un-expects-death-toll-above-50000/a-64677847
    3. Channel News Asia. (15 February 2023). Nine survivors pulled from Türkiye’s rubble as earthquake death toll passes 40,000. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/world/nine-survivors-pulled-turkiye-turkey-rubble-syria-earthquake-death-toll-passes-40000-3277481
    4. The New York Times. (14 February 2023). Quake Updates: Toll in Turkey and Syria Surpasses 40,000 Dead. https://www.nytimes.com/explain/2023/02/14/world/turkey-syria-earthquake
    5. Deutsche Welle. (11 February 2023). Turkey-Syria earthquakes: Grief ‘slowly giving way to anger’.
      https://www.dw.com/en/turkey-syria-earthquakes-grief-slowly-giving-way-to-anger/a-64672674
    6. Channel News Asia. (9 February 2023). Singaporeans flood donation centre with supplies in outpouring of support for Türkiye-Syria quake victimshttps://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/singaporeans-flood-donation-centre-supplies-outpouring-support-turkiye-syria-quake-victims-3266161
    7. The Guardian. (12 February 2023). Turkey-Syria earthquake: death toll rises to 33,000; baby girl rescued alive after 150 hours, Turkish health minister says – as it happened. 
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2023/feb/12/turkey-syria-earthquake-latest-news-updates-death-toll
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Events

Lunar New Year 2018 – Celebrating a decade of growing giving to impact

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CFS’s 10th anniversary celebrations kicked off to a wonderful start with a Lunar New Year lunch on 1 March.

Themed “A decade of giving and gratitude”, the event was a testament to CFS’s journey from a quiet start-up a decade ago to a thriving organisation today.

Attended by some 120 donors, charities and partners, the room was filled with a spirited sense of bonding. In his opening speech, Chairman Laurence Lien reflected on CFS’s beginnings during the 2009 Global Financial Crisis when few prospects wanted to talk about philanthropy. “Surviving the first five years was an achievement,” he expressed, citing the setting up of the Outing for the Elderly Fund and the S R Nathan Education Upliftment fund as early endorsements of CFS’s capabilities.

Striking a poignant note in his last year as CFS’s Chairman, Laurence also left several memorable parting thoughts – from inviting donors to be part-owners of CFS to encouraging all to embrace collaboration through their own donor communities.

There were endless conversations in a convival atmosphere as old ties were renewed and new connections were made between donors and charities. In the spirit of collaboration, Deputy CEO Joyce Teo provided an update on Colabs – an initiative between CFS and NVPC announced a year ago.. Her speech shone a light on Colabs’ objective of tackling social issues by bringing together diverse players and signalled forthcoming initiatives focused on disadvantaged children and youth, persons with disabilities and seniors.

Rounding off the lunch, CEO Catherine Loh thanked donors for their trust in CFS, which has resulted in many donors embracing new and innovative approaches to philanthropy. She signalled CFS will focus on Collaboration, Legacy and Impact to tackle issues arising from a rapidly ageing population, technological disruptions and income inequality. To this end, CFS will build on its strong foundation to help even more donors experience the benefits of committed and sustained giving.

We look forward to the exciting months ahead as we continue to mark this milestone year and drive community philanthropy forward.

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Opinion

Speech by Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at CFS’s 10th anniversary celebrations: Working together to build a caring Singapore

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Grace Fu delivering speech at podium to audience.

Mr Laurence Lien, Chairman, Community Foundation of Singapore
Ms Catherine Loh, CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed my great pleasure to be here today. First, I would like to congratulate the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) on its 10th anniversary. Throughout the past decade, CFS has done excellent work in raising funds and giving out grants, as well as in inspiring and enabling giving in Singapore. This is in no small part due to the generosity and hard work of staff, donors and partners. I’d like to express my gratitude and to commend all of you for your contributions. CFS was first started during the tumultuous period after the global financial crisis, and conversations about donations must have been difficult. Nevertheless, under the stewardship of Laurence, Catherine and Stanley, CFS has really grown over the years. Once again, thank you so much!

Philanthropy has played an important role in Singapore’s history
Philanthropy has always played an important role in the history and development of Singapore. In fact, records of philanthropy in Singapore go back to as early as the 1800s when immigrants came to this country in search of opportunities. Notable philanthropists such as Lim Nee Soon, Tan Kah Kee, Syed Mohamed Alsagoff and Govindasamy Pillai have responded to the needs of their times. These are early pioneers who have very selflessly and generously helped their communities. They helped to build up Singapore in the pre-war years, rebuild it in the post-war years, and worked alongside the government to develop our infrastructure after independence.

Today, it is just as crucial to build a culture of care and contribution. We live in an increasingly complex and dynamic environment. In many developed countries, socio-economic challenges have bred distrust and grown uncertainty. Terrorism continues to be a global threat. Within our region, exclusivist trends are rising, and societies are becoming increasingly polarised. At the same time, technology is disrupting nearly everything, from industries and jobs, to the way we live, to the way we do business and interact with one another, to our social hierarchy. Singapore is not immune to such threats and challenges, especially when we are so diverse as a people. So when we care and look out for one another, when we have that relationship that is beyond the transactional but instead comes from within the heart and is genuine, we will be better equipped to stand together in times of crisis.

Government support for philanthropy
There is already a strong support infrastructure for philanthropy to thrive. The Government gives tax deductions for donations to charities. There are matched-funding initiatives that have spurred more giving by individuals and corporates; for example, MCCY’s Cultural Matching Fund which supports giving to arts and culture, and the One Team Singapore Fund, which supports high performance sport.

The Government is also committed to developing a well-governed and thriving charity sector, with strong public support. In January this year, the Parliament passed the Charities (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to strengthen governance of fund-raising in response to trends in charitable giving.

As Singapore’s only community foundation, CFS plays an important role as a bridge between local communities and the larger charitable ecosystem. Beyond just encouraging cheque-book donations, CFS has connected donors with organisations that support their cause. For example, 71-year-old Mr Govind Bommi felt an affinity for the eldercare sector. Through CFS, he was connected with Metta Day Rehabilitation Centre, which provides rehabilitative care for elderly beneficiaries from all races and backgrounds. He then set up a fund to support the Centre, and continues to volunteer there today.

Closing gap between aspiration and participation
But there is more we can do for Singapore to be a more caring society. The Individual Giving Survey conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) showed that although the total donation amount to organisations has grown over the years, the overall rate of donation* has declined, with 3 in 4 donating in 2016, compared to 9 in 10 a decade ago. However, among the non-donors, 1 in 3 said they are likely to donate in future. Similarly, in the volunteering space, there is high propensity among non-volunteers to volunteer in future.

We want to close this gap between aspiration and participation, and unite Singaporeans through a common culture of care. This is the basis for SG Cares, a national movement for us to better support one another in making Singapore a caring society through giving, through volunteering, and through acts of kindness. By bringing together partners across the people and private sectors, SG Cares enables the building of capabilities across organisations to grow opportunities for contribution. SG Cares also better equips individuals and organisations who want to give back, and connects them with suitable opportunities to do so. So it’s very much an encouragement and a call to action. But more importantly, it’s about building the infrastructure, platforms, connections and capabilities within the sector.

The work at CFS contributes to SG Cares, because an impactful philanthropy landscape is a hallmark of a caring society, where those with resources give back effectively to help those in need. Collaboration is the way to go, and donors today are taking more initiative, and seeking more meaningful engagement opportunities. CFS is well positioned to seize these opportunities and provide the platforms. For example, the Colabs series by CFS and NVPC brings together givers, non-profits and sector experts to build insights and co-create solutions together. This not only encourages more collective efforts that deliver impact, but also deepens the knowledge base to guide donors to areas of needs. It also improves the design of programmes and how volunteers are involved, to better serve the community.

Caring involves all of us
The making of a caring Singapore involves and requires all of us – the government, non-profit sector, businesses and individuals – to work together to find solutions and demonstrate care and compassion for our community. With this shared sense of responsibility, we stand a better chance in riding out the waves of global uncertainty and disruption. By caring for one another, we foster resilient communities that stand together in both good and bad times.

To conclude, I would like to leave you with the words of Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Once again, congratulations to CFS on your 10th anniversary! And once again, thank you for your contributions and I hope you will continue to inspire others with your efforts and actions. I’m sure there will be greater capacity for CFS to grow. Thank you.

Grace Fu
Minister for Community, Culture and Youth

*Through both formal and informal means.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Opinion

How philanthropy can help tackle gender-based online harms

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Technology and the Internet have made our lives better in many ways. But they are also facilitating an alarming increase in online abuse, particularly of young women. There is upskirting, where the perpetrator takes intrusive photos or videos up someone’s skirt without their permission. There is revenge porn, where explicit photos or videos of a person are posted on the Internet, typically by a former sexual partner.

With the ubiquity of social media, there is flaming (insulting someone with offensive language), doxxing (revealing private information), and cyberstalking. And on encrypted direct messaging platforms, victims are being threatened with violence. As actress Ashley Judd noted in a powerful TEDTalk in 2016, the online abuse of women has spiralled out of control (Judd, 2016).

In Singapore, a poll conducted in January 2022 by the Sunlight Alliance of Action (AfA), a public-private-people partnership to tackle online harms, found that close to half of the 1,000 respondents polled have personally experienced one or more types of online harms (MCI, 2022). Most of those who faced gender-based cyber abuse were between 15 to 35 years. With young girls, there is the added danger of sexual grooming.

Yet, women do not always come forward to seek freedom from online harm. One reason is a lack of knowledge about recourse. Another revolves around the gendered myths that direct blame towards the victim, writes academic Laura Vitis in Technology-Facilitated Violence Against Women in Singapore: Key Considerations (Vitis, 2021).

What can be done? This is a problem that requires a whole-of-society effort. It needs awareness, advocacy, education, as well as enhancements in regulatory response, law enforcement and social services support. We can start by talking about what constitutes technology-facilitated sexual violence. Reinforce the message that image-based sexual abuse, camera sexual voyeurism and coerced sex-based communication are offences. Urge tech companies to make their services safer by removing offending images or gendered invective. 

On July 13, the Ministry of Communications and Information launched a public consultation on a Code of Practice for Online Safety (Reach, 2022). This will require social media services with significant reach or impact to have system-wide processes to mitigate exposure to harmful online content for Singapore-based users, including those below the age of 18.

Aside from this, we need to empower women to protect themselves against online abuse. Let them know how to record evidence and who to contact for support. These include the government’s 24-hour National Anti-Violence Helpline, AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre, and TOUCH Cyber Wellness. There is also Solid Ground, a volunteer-run project that provides step-by-step guides for those facing online abuse.

More recently, in April 2022, a new non profit was formed to empower, assist and support women and girls facing gender-based harm. SG Her Empowerment Limited (SHE) was born out of the work of Sunlight AfA and is chaired by Stefanie Yuen Thio, a member of Sunlight AfA. Stefanie is also a managing partner at TSMP Law Corporation and a board member at the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS).

The new charity plans to work with technology platforms to streamline reporting procedures and expedite takedowns. It will also liaise with the Law Society Pro Bono Services Office to provide legal clinics and pro bono legal services to those coming to the newly set up Victims’ Support Centre. SHE also hopes to work with the police to provide more holistic and empathetic support to the victims.

“This is an urgent and underserved need in our community,” says Stefanie. “Philanthropy can be a powerful driver and partner in our collaborative, public-private effort to combat online harm. This is a scourge that needs more than government regulation; it requires a whole-of-community response, from setting right mindsets, to calling out offending behaviours, to taking up the cause of victims,” she adds.

In addition to tackling online harms, and in light of the recommendations from the Singapore Government’s White Paper on Women’s Development released earlier this year, SHE will also be rolling out more programmes to support women and girls generally, hoping to work with both men and women to advance and equip the gender.

As a cause-neutral advisor, CFS works with a number of charities and initiatives that raise awareness about gender injustices and provide access to justice for victims of gender abuse, including online harm. If you would like to find out more about supporting these causes or for more information on the work we do, please go to www.cf.org.sg/grants/what-we-support/.

This article was written by Sunita Sue Leng, a former financial analyst and journalist who believes that the written word can be a force for good. She hopes to someday write something worth plagiarising.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CFS or its members.

References

Association of Women for Action and Research. (20 April 2022). Image-based sexual abuse featured in 7 in 10 cases of technology-facilitated sexual violence seen by AWARE in 2021.
https://www.aware.org.sg/2022/04/image-based-sexual-abuse-featured-in-7-in-10-cases-of-technology-facilitated-sexual-violence-seen-by-aware-in-2021/

Judd, Ashley. (2016). How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control. TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/ashley_judd_how_online_abuse_of_women_has_spiraled_out_of_control/transcript

Ministry of Communications and Information. (25 March 2022). Sunlight AfA Releases Topline Findings from Poll on Online Harms at Webinar.
https://www.mci.gov.sg/pressroom/news-and-stories/pressroom/2022/3/sunlight-afa-releases-topline-findings-from-poll-on-online-harms-at-webinar

Reach. (2022). Public Consultation on enhancing online safety for users in Singapore.
https://www.reach.gov.sg/Participate/Public-Consultation/Ministry-of-Communications-and-Information/public-consultation-on-enhancing-online-safety-for-users-in-singapore

Today. (13 July 2022). Singapore lays out proposals to shield young social media users from harmful content; seeks public feedbackhttps://www.todayonline.com/singapore/singapore-lays-out-proposals-shield-young-social-media-users-harmful-content-seeks-public-feedback-1942991?cid=braze-tdy_Today-Morning-Brief_newsletter_14072022_tdy%0A%0A

TSMP Law Corporation. (25 April 2022). SG Her Empowerment Limited (SHE).
https://www.tsmplaw.com/news/sg-her-empowerment-limited-she/

Vitis, Laura. (2021). Technology-Facilitated Violence Against Women in Singapore: Key Considerations. Emerald Publishing Limited. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/978-1-83982-848-520211031/full/pdf

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