Shining a light on women’s mental health

Rizal Faisal

Women’s and girls’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic took centre stage during a recent webinar organised by Project Women and Girls Development (Project Women Brunei) with support from the Embassy of Sweden in Singapore.

The ‘Women’s and Girls’ Mental Health and the Pandemic’ webinar via Zoom, held on May 15, saw 42 participants.

The panel of speakers comprised Dr Lisa Clefberg, a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist from Stockholm, Sweden who spoke on ‘Supporting Women and Girls’ Mental Health during the Pandemic’; Regional Advisor for Adolescent Development and Participation in UNICEF EAPRO Roshni Basu who spoke on ‘Protecting the Rights of Girls and Women in COVID-19 Response and the Perspectives and Considerations of UNICEF’; and Norshahzuani Azaman, psychologist and member of Demensia Brunei who spoke on ‘Balancing Mental, Emotional and Physical Health of Female Caregivers for Family Members
with Dementia’.

The discussion covered how women and girls are burdened by caregiver responsibilities, not only for family members with dementia but also for those caring for the elderly and persons with disabilities in the household and how it can take a toll in their mental health. The vulnerability of young girls was raised as teenage pregnancy and domestic violence cases increase in Asia, according to UNICEF data.

The experience in Sweden on mental health issues was also discussed as well as support mechanisms and tips on handling, maintaining and sustaining mental health.

Ambassador Nicklas Kvarnstrom of Embassy of Sweden in Singapore said the mental health of women and girls is a priority.

He spoke on the long-term consequences of the pandemic to the economy and individuals who suffer loneliness, depression and anxiety over unemployment.

Deputy Head of Mission of Embassy of Sweden in Singapore Helena Reitberger highlighted the need to continue the conversation on mental health to reduce the stigma attached to it and support women and girls during this challenging time.

Founder and Executive Director of Project Women Brunei Nur Judy binti Abdullah said, “May is Mental Health Awareness month and it is crucial that we shine a light on the mental health of women and girls in Brunei Darussalam during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure they receive support.”

Project Women Brunei is a non-profit social enterprise committed to promoting the development of women and girls. It engages them in open spaces to discuss issues and challenges affecting them, advocate for solutions, counsel and motivate them in a safe environment.

They aim to be a leading resource network dedicated in advancing women and girls’ development. The Project Women team believes that promoting women’s and girls’ development through education and lifelong learning will help them realise their full potential, exercise human rights, bridge the gender gap and contribute to the society.

This is possible through Project Women’s strategies of holding advocacy campaigns, action research, online and offline training, conferences, dialogues, forums and learning sessions.

Their flagship advocacy campaigns are Project Womenpro for women protection, Project GirlSafe for safeguarding girl-children, Project Wise for women in social entrepreneurship and Project WiT for women in technology.

The empowering organisation creates open spaces for women and girls to gather and discuss issues and challenges that affect them, advocate for solutions together, and counsel and motivate each other in a supportive and safe environment.

The Project Women team said female empowerment, regardless of their economic and socio-cultural status, is significant for the development of a society since it enhances the quality and quantity of human resources available for sustainable development.

They believe empowerment is one of the main procedural concerns when addressing human rights and development.

Project Women expands opportunities for increased economic female participation to generate sustainable income through entrepreneurship or gainful self-employment by leveraging on digital technology.