She is her family's own "Iron Lady".
The nickname for the late former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was given to Madam Jamila Abdul Karim by her own family and friends. And for good reason.
The 53-year-old, whose husband suffers medical problems, has single-handedly raised her five daughters, all the while being the family's sole breadwinner.
Her feat won her the top award at yesterday's Exemplary Mother Awards, organised by welfare organisation Jamiyah Singapore and held at Swissotel The Stamford.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam presented her with the prize, which comes with $6,000 in cash and a holiday for two in Taiwan.
"The most difficult part was looking after the children as I was working - they needed their mother, but I managed," said Madam Jamila, who quit school at the age of 13 to support her family by working odd jobs. After her marriage, she took on whatever job she could, including being a seamstress, a factory worker and a cook, to put her daughters through school. She was determined to give them the education that eluded her.
"Back then, my pay as a factory worker was just $300 a month," she said, adding that she "could not feel prouder" today.
Her two eldest daughters both have good jobs, with one working as a paralegal in a top law firm, and the other in the human resources field. The other three are enrolled in degree and diploma courses at the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Institute of Management.
Madam Jamila said: "Seeing them do well, I feel very happy."
Second daughter Nasreen Begum, 27, who has a 10-month-old son, said: "My mother has shown me how I want to raise my own child".
Now that she and her elder sister are working, she hopes her mother can take a break from her work running a catering shop and let them support her.
The Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Ms Low Yen Ling, who attended the awards, paid tribute to mothers across Singapore. "We want to honour and show appreciation to mothers," she said. "We know that mothers form the heartbeat of families, and families form the foundation of the nation."
This article was first published on Sep 28, 2014.
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