Cover Mahnaz Lee’s NGO, Women Helping Women Hong Kong, has helped more than 60,000 women in need since its inception in 2010 (Photo: Affa Chan/ Tatler Hong Kong)

Mahnaz Lee, founder, board chair and managing director of Women Helping Women Hong Kong (WHWHK), reflects on a decade’s work supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable women and children

Tell us about your role with WHWHK.

After a long career in my family business at Lee Kum Kee’s US headquarters in Los Angeles working in marketing and advertising, I decided to change direction and focus on philanthropy in Hong Kong. In 2010, along with a few like-minded ladies, I established Women Helping Women, a charity, to help women and children facing violence and abuse.

What inspired you to create a platform for women?

Domestic violence exists in Hong Kong yet many cases go unreported. I want to stop violence in low-income families and be a voice for those who have lost hope. Our organisation offers free education, consultation and therapy to underprivileged women and children facing domestic violence and abuse. Our programmes take six to nine months to complete and are led by trained social workers. [The programmes teach participants] how to avoid conflict, triggers and difficult situations that can create violence at home, and single mothers are helped to integrate back into the workforce. It’s heartwarming to see the breakthroughs the women achieve.

How many women have you helped?

Each year we reach out to 6,000 to 8,000 women and children. Over the last 11 years, more than 60,000 women and children have gone through our programmes. We collaborate with reputable and trusted NGOs that target low-income groups located in the Kwai Tsing and Sham Shui Po districts and other parts of Kowloon.

How has your fundraising been impacted by Covid-19?

Between Covid-19, the 2019 unrest and our main gala being put on hold, we’ve had a very difficult time raising funds. The pandemic has been especially hard for low-income families in Hong Kong who are facing loss of income and unemployment. WHWHK has focused on raising awareness for the cause and we’re happy to see local philanthropists and brands interested to help.

What has been your proudest achievement in the past ten years?

I am happy to contribute my time and effort to women and children who are in crisis. I feel good knowing that I made a difference to someone’s life. I believe in author Bryant McGill’s quote that “Giving is the master key to success, in all applications of human life; for it is in giving that we receive.”

What is on the horizon for the organisation?

In November, we are launching a new programme called Women and Children Behind the Door in partnership with the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society to educate and empower women and children by providing psychological services as well as life-rebuilding workshops to those suffering domestic violence and [other forms of] abuse. With small steps we hope to make a big difference.

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See also: 5 Ways To Give Back In Hong Kong