Wu Mei-lin, founder of the Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association, says there are few choices of trades suitable for middle-aged women re-entering the workforce. She says the government does not do enough to help and social service sectors such as elderly services and meal delivery are under-resourced.
“If the government only allocates small amounts of funding to welfare grants… the social services’ work that is suitable for female homemakers will be limited, hard and with long working hours. No one will be willing to do it. Why can’t the government make it become a professional industry which is suitable for more people to join? ” says Wu.
To address this problem, five students and recent graduates from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, established a social enterprise in 2015 called FeStyle. Having noticed that some working people are unable to or do not have time to buy fresh ingredients after they finish work, the founders created an online shopping platform. It employs female homemakers to buy fresh ingredients from wet markets on behalf of their customers.
“This social mission is to help female homemakers become empowered and employed,” says one of the founders Yip Hiu-wai. She believes society should provide more suitable work opportunities for middle-aged female homemakers to exercise their talents and skills, especially as society is now more concerned about gender equality and equal rights.
Another co-founder Fung Toi-sze says society does not seem aware of the everyday problems women face in the job market. She says the gender issues most people focus on are sex discrimination and domestic violence.
“Non-governmental organisations and social workers are only concerned about issues like teenagers’ problems, drug abuse, elderly problems, and even community development. But it is rare for those non-governmental organisations to hold any workshops for women specifically,” says Fung.
The project has recruited a limited number of homemakers and is still in its infancy. The idea is to recognise and make the most of the skills homemakers possess and to empower them through work.
“The change may be small, but it is a process,” says Wong Ka-wing, another founder of FeStyle.
Edited by Tiff Chan