Beyond Social Services’ deputy executive director, Ranganayaki Thangavelu highlighted three keywords, “context, community and collaboration”, as she spoke on the community social services and social inequality issues in the Ethos Books’ gathering of civil society.
Ms Ranganayaki was among the panellists in the Ethos Books’ gathering of civil society that aimed to bring together activists from different areas. The gathering, which titled The Ground Speaks: Civil Society After GE2020, was live-streamed on Facebook on 26 July.
Speaking on community social services and social inequality, she grouped her comments in three keywords which are “context, community and collaboration”.
“The context that we are in changes everything. The COVID-19, Sengkang GRC [which is won by the Workers’ Party in GE], more women in Parliament, these have changed our context and we must seize the moment,” said the community worker.
She added that other issues like inequality, poverty, education, income, housing and migrant workers’ rights have gained attention from the public in recent years which have opened more opportunities for the community groups to work together.
Commenting on the new cabinet which was announced on 25 July, Ms Ranganayaki noted that there were three ministers have been appointed to take on the Social Policy and Social Services – Desmond Lee as Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, Tharman Shanmugaratnam as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, and Masagos Zulkifli as Minister for Social and Family Development.
“Is it because these issues are in greater focus now, there’s more muscle behind it? I sure hope so because I also hope then that there is a bigger space for civil society input and not big Government,” she remarked.
Ms Ranganayaki also commented on Mr Tharman’s remarks on forging a new compact between the State and communities towards public goals.
“I loved it because I think this is the vision as a community connector and a community mobilizer we are looking at. The time is right now for us to contribute through research, writing, advocacy, campaigns and community action, whichever area that each of us picks,” she stated.
While her two keywords, “community and collaboration” are linked to one another. Ms Ranganayaki explained that many individuals from the low-income communities had stepped forward to volunteer despite being affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
She noted that these volunteers have taken collective action in their own place, but they tend to be quiet about their action which probably because “they do not have space to talk about it”.
“This is civil society in action, especially when social service professionals could not have as much movement in the community. They step forward to take charge,” said Ms Ranganayaki.
“Inclusion in society is the first step towards correcting inequality. So then I wonder how will it look like if our grassroots are informal networks of active citizens who take action for the collective good,” she continued.
Ms Ranganayaki also mentioned about “Mind The Gap” which was set up by community groups to distribute financial assistance to low-income families whose plight amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
She believes such collective action builds strong bonds between social service providers, adding that civil society plays a big role in shaping the agenda for policies.
“Civil society needs to keep producing as much knowledge as possible. We have it. We live it every day. This means research of social inequality and how they intersect with other things too, like climate change, gender race for example. And to do so, we need more data and feed these data to MPs in NMPs,” Ms Ranganayaki elaborated.