By: Sher Maine Wong
Inspiring Women, Strengthening Families
PPIS President Hazlina Abdul Halim talks about how the 70-year-old organisation’s mission to uplift women, children and families in Singapore is more relevant today than ever.
She jokingly calls herself the “Covid president” as she was appointed in 2020 when the pandemic hit.
But even as Hazlina Abdul Halim, 37, the youngest President of the PPIS (Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura or Singapore Muslim Women’s Association), led her team through the very serious task of pivoting online, she realised that the work done by the 70-year-old organisation was more critical than ever.
“It took the pandemic to highlight that social service is an essential service, as a lot of people are dependent on what we do. Ours will never be a sunset industry,” she said.
Supported by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), which funds some of PPIS’ programmes, the non-profit organisation supports underprivileged Muslim women and their families through its quality and holistic community programmes and initiatives.
She shared: “The strategic priority for PPIS would be to remain relevant, no matter how old we are.”
This came to the fore during the pandemic as work-from-home policies took a heavier toll on women’s domestic or caregiving duties, and sometimes on their careers.
For women who fell through the cracks or exceeded the criteria for national pandemic help schemes, PPIS quickly devised the $150,000 WIN (Women in Need) fund in 2020.
One component of the WIN fund was the PPIS Microbusiness Foundation Programme, which ran in partnership with the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI). It equipped the women who were running an increasing number of home-based businesses with skills in areas including branding and social media strategy.
“We wanted to encourage more women to seize the opportunity to live their entrepreneurial dreams,” she said.
But beyond the pandemic, relevance for the non-profit organisation is also about digitalisation and moving into the realm of data analytics.
To go digital, PPIS received funds from the Transformation Support Scheme which is run by NCSS. Said Hazlina: “I’m proud of how the PPIS team pivoted online, especially when our services, including the family service centres, divorce specialist and fostering agencies, required interaction with clients. We were able to deliver without compromising on any of our programmes.”
It also embarked on its first-ever research on the Aspirations of Singapore Muslim women. The study which was funded by the President’s Challenge Fund, is managed by NCSS and involved 1,000 women. The findings from the study were released in March this year and will allow PPIS to develop more evidence-based programmes.
Hazlina shared: “We discovered that their top aspirations included being a good Muslim woman, ensure a holistic upbringing for their family, as well as the desire for excellence in the workplace without sacrificing family and faith.”
While Hazlina has always held a full-time job in the media industry, her stint in social services has proved so rewarding that she recently left her current job as a Public Affairs Advisor at the US Embassy, to lead the Make-a-Wish Foundation in July as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The foundation fulfils the wishes of critically-ill children.
Her involvement in social services started when she was in university.
Born to parents who are working in the STEM industry, Hazlina realised when she was studying in Australia between 2006 and 2010 that she wanted to give back.
“It wasn’t down to any one particular incident or impression. But it was a dawning emotion that I had been incredibly fortunate. I do feel guilty for the fortune I’ve been given, I’ve had the lion’s share of it, and it would be remiss of me if I don’t help others by giving back.”
She was coincidentally introduced to the PPIS the moment she got back to Singapore in 2011 and has been involved with its activities since then.
At Make-a-Wish, she will join a handful of young leaders in the non-profit sector.
It doesn't faze her, for what has distinguished her career is how she is often one of the youngest. She started deejaying at 19, did TV news bulletins at 20, lectured at the Temasek Polytechnic at 26, became a news editor at Channel News Asia at 29, and then headed PPIS at 35. She will continue being PPIS President while leading Make-a-Wish.
On her decision to move fully into social service, she reflected: “Honestly, it’s making a difference and simply asking yourself: Who do you work for and what are you working for? The meaning behind the cause gives you a different kind of motivation. I’m really looking forward to working for children, and to be a part of shaping the future.”
Hazlina is one of many inspiring individuals working with NCSS, who has made a difference in the lives of others. Discover other great stories featured in the NCSS initiative, Stories from the Heart, here.