Fighting tooth and nail to single-handedly raise their children

Mariayee (centre) worked as a gardener and maid to raise her daughters Pakialetchumy (left) and Vicneswary after her husband left the family.

FORTY-eight-year-old Annie (not her real name) tolerated her husband’s mental abuse and infidelity for many years.

After 15 years of marriage, she finally moved out of her matrimonial home with her teenage children some two years ago and is now waiting for her divorce trial to begin.

Her partner does not provide any financial assistance or parenting support, leaving Annie in dire straits and with no idea how to take care of her children.

Sadly, she is also not entitled to any form of government aid as she is yet to be divorced and thus not considered a single mother.

“My ex-husband managed to manipulate me and convinced me to quit my job and surrender everything, including access to my bank account.

It was a calculated move to drain me financially. I was his business partner but I have no money as I was not paid a salary.

“My children’s education suffered.

“One day they asked me if we could move out of the house without their father. I said yes, and we left, ” she said, adding that her children were now doing well in their studies.

Initially, Annie did not want to push for the divorce to avoid more mental stress.

“I know many mothers both Muslims and non-Muslims who suffer the same fate as me.

“The suffering is worse for abandoned mothers in the city as rental and food prices are high, ” said Annie, who has been taking on several jobs, including teaching, to sustain her family.

“The movement control order (MCO) period somehow fuelled my determination to restart my life.

“I am determined to provide the best for my children, ” she added.

For 38-year-old A. Vicneswary, having no food to eat was a frequent occurrence while growing up in Ipoh with her sister.

She wore a badly patched uniform to school in Year Six because her mother could not afford to get her a new one.

However, their strong-willed 65-year-old mother, P. Mariayee, made sure both children were educated after their father left them when they were three and seven, respectively.

Mariayee was married in the 1980s in a traditional ceremony but the marriage was not registered as required under Malaysian civil law.

A Form One dropout, she worked as a gardener and maid to support the family and ensure that her children completed their formal education.

Vicneswary said on weekends she would follow her mother to help clean houses.

“Luxury to me as a child would be having a set of 24 colour pencils which I never had, ” said Vicneswary, who had to work part-time to finance her higher education.

“Growing up, I recall eating cooked young papaya with chapati, ” said Vicneswary, who is now a project manager with a telecommunications company.

Her 34-year-old sister Pakialetchumy is a lecturer.

“We had good teachers who would help us in any small way.

“My Year Three English teacher Mrs Lim Sooi Guat would give me extra food coupons because she knew both my sister and mother would have nothing to eat, ” Vicneswary recalled.

She said it was a proud moment when she first bought a car and later a house.

“I took my mother to the wholesale market when I bought my car.

“All the while, my mother only went to the smaller markets by walking or cycling, ” she said.

Mariayee is currently undergoing ovarian cancer treatment at Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh.

Vicneswary said her mother had instilled many good values in her and her sister.

“Her sacrifices have truly helped us uplift our lives.

“The community I grew up in was also kind towards my family, ” added Vicneswary, who is also an animal rescuer.

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