AZNIE RAHIM is 38, a civil servant with a frank, open smile. She has been divorced for six years, a fact she has no qualms disclosing.
“The divorce was swift because he wasn’t able to provide,” she says, gaze direct. “He didn’t want to; he couldn’t. I couldn’t get him to provide child support in Shariah court.”
She shrugs, unsurprised. Her two sons, nine and 11, are at school. Dim sunlight filters in through the windows. On the coffee table, there is a neat stack of clothes, newly folded. In the kitchen, a blue polka- dot apron hangs from a hook. Tacked to the fridge is a photo of her son in a pilot costume, surrounded by a calendar, some colorful magnets, and a child’s drawing of a beach with a half- smiling sun.
“I cook every day,” Aznie says. “The most cost- effective way to manage a household is to do everything yourself. Is it hard? Sure, but I go online and find recipes that I can make in half an hour.”
She manages childcare on her own, except for the weekends when her mother takes ov ver to spend time with them. He er ex- husband sees their son ns when he has the time.
“My mother is a divorce ee, so I knew what to do. It was d depressing for the first two years, , being on my own.”
She handles the stigma of single motherhood in her usual, upfront way. She doesn’t shy away from people’s judgments, doesn't make excuses for their lack of empathy.
“We don’t care whether a woman is able to eat or feed herself,” she says. “We care more about whether she’s sticking to the moral code. The ladies around here are worried that single mothers will steal their husbands.
“Even my brother doesn’t approve of me. He thinks I should conform like a normal Malay woman.”
There was an altercation, and the police were summoned. But she doesn’t bear grudges, and she doesn’t walk around with an invisible scarlet letter pinned to her chest. She carries herself proudly, like a woman in love with life.
“I’ve decided that I want to go to Australia to further my studies and get a Masters.” It’s a plan she made for herself and has saved up for. It’s a goal to work towards, for herself and for her sons.
“The investment is for you,” she explains. “Your career and the income it generates is for your children. And your children will see you as a happy, fulfilled person.”