I cannot remember how I first came into contact with Chong Sheau Ching. Nevertheless, it has been some years since we first met. Her website, as you’ll read, focuses on helping people who work from home. This, of course, is of much interest to me. I was very keen to interview her for a long time but, if you know anything at all about Sheau Ching, she’s very busy! Still, I am so pleased she agreed and to my request; therefore, without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, Chong Sheau Ching …
Aneeta: Sheau Ching, or C2, as I normally refer to you, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s start with a little about you – tell me where you were born, where you grew up, where you live now and what you do for a living?
Sheau Ching: I was born and bred in Ipoh. I have been living in Kuala Lumpur for the past few years and I am working full-time to build eHomemakers so that one day, I can leave it to a group of dedicated professionals who will take it to another level.
Aneeta: Before we go into the work you do now, I’m interested in the article you used to write, ‘A Job Only Mothers Can Do’. Please tell me what was that about?
Sheau Ching: I quit my high-flying policy planning job with the UN and came back to give birth to my daughter. Then I became a single mom. Instead of going back to international work, I took the difficult decision to stay close to my daughter by not leaving her to a baby sitter while I work outside of the home to earn money. The choices for a mother then was: being a full time housewife to look after my baby or to work full time outside. There was no other choices. I created another choice for myself – working at home. But for 3 years when I freelanced doing writings, copyediting, I didn’t dare to tell anyone except the closest people what I was doing. This is why the article is entitled ‘ A Job Only Mothers Can Do’. Only a mother’s love for her kid could make me stick by the decision to work at home and be seen as a lowly housewife who had nothing to do against a backdrop of past prestigious international work experiences.
Aneeta: OK, let’s talk about eHomemakers. Tell me what it’s about?
Sheau Ching: We are 13 years old this year, an e-community of teleworkers, homeprenuers and homemakers in South East Asia at www.ehomemakers.net. We also have a pro-poor project, Salaam Wanita, in Malaysia, one of the marketing platform for the eco-basket project is at www.justmarketing.info. We have been advocating working @ home for women (and men) who want to balance work and homelife and go green.
Aneeta: Do you have a lot of assistance running and managing this website?
Sheau Ching: eHomemakers’ webteam runs the website professionally and they all work at home, I just do the partnership and fundraising and send them the information.
Aneeta: I’m sure that you and those on eHomemakers have mutually benefitted from all the work done on eHomemakers. My question is this: what aspect, in particular, of eHomemakers gives you the most satisfaction?
Sheau Ching: The working at home movement has grown, women who work at home are no longer ridiculed and seen as useless. We are seen as forward-looking women who have the best of both worlds – work and home life – by using communication technologies efficiently.
Aneeta: Clearly, since you started eHomemakers, it’s won many accolades. Please pick three that mean more to you than others and explain why.
Sheau Ching: Our being the runner-up for the Gender and ICT Award given by Global Knowledge Partners and other international bodies propelled us to international limelight. Our winning the Pan Asia 2002 and 2003 Award Grant in international competitions affirmed to us that our team was as good as any international teams who work in a physical office. Our winning the MSC Malaysia Ericsson CR Award in 2008 was an affirmation that we have been right all along – using mobile gadjets for the poor was the way to go and our innovations must be very ground-based, always. We will not innovate anything by sitting in an air-conditioned office, dreaming up ideas for other people to use, but to use our observations and output of research to create value-added products, systems or applications for home based people!
Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. Has storytelling helped you in your work with eHomemakers?
Sheau Ching: I used to write stories in a newspaper column. It was after we won those awards and the international press started to ask me questions that I realised that I have been creating a story about a single mom helming an e-community with her team to help other moms to create work life balance.
Aneeta: C2, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Sheau Ching: I hope more women (and men) will join us to advocate this low carbon work option and we have more mutual support in platforms we are building with several partners now. So keep coming to www.ehomemakers.net!!
Aneeta: C2, thank you.
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