June 23 is International Widows Day
The United Nations adopted a resolution in 2010 to mark June 23 as a global day to raise awareness about the plight of widows and the discrimination against them.
International Widows Day is the result of a concerted campaign on the part of The Loomba Foundation to make the world sit up and take notice of the voiceless, invisible ones in their midst. Widows whose treatment is so despicable that it almost strains credulity when one reads their stories.
And yet the stories are all true, and they demand a response on our part, even if it's only on one day a year.
International Widows Day was the vision of Lord Loomba, who himself experienced what it was like to suddenly have his mother widowed, and to watch how profoundly that changed her life even though she was adequately provided for by her late husband’s estate.
As he grew older he vowed to work to change the way the world treats widows. He's doing it through the work of The Loomba Foundation, and also by challenging you and me to participate in International Widows Day.
For a broad awareness piece about the challenge of widows, review the material on the UN's page about International Widows Day.
It's about many individuals doing many small actions which cumulatively awaken the conscience of society to the extreme violence being done to widows around the globe.
As you learn about International Widows Day, you will want to investigate the many ways in which nonprofits are working to empower widows. So after you've read the ideas below, do follow the link to this page.
Below you’ll find ideas and resources for planning your own International Widows Day presentation/activity, for your service club or class at school or church or for a group of friends you invite in for tea.
My hope is that you’ll be sufficiently inspired (or depressed, or angry) by exploring this website that you’ll want to do something to mark the day, to make more people aware, and perhaps do a little fundraising of your own for one of the nonprofits that appeals to you.
Send us your own ideas, and photos of what you have done for International Widows Day – we’ll post them on the website and they’ll serve to give other people ideas of what they might do.
As more of us take advantage of the opportunity that International Widows Day gives for exposing the plight of widows in the developing world, there will be more pressure exerted on the governments of those countries to truly care for these, their most vulnerable minority.
§ Ask to make a 5-minute presentation on the plight of widows at your school or church or service club on June 23rd (or the date nearest to that on which you are meeting)
§ Create a poster including statistics
on widows, pictures, map of the world identifying countries where they are most
discriminated against, etc. (Read the World Widows Report for useful information).
§ Email one of the nonprofits you meet on this website and ask for publicity material regarding their activities to share with your group.
§ Ask your local immigrant women’s association or refugee care group if they know of widows from different developing countries who would come and share their experience with your group.
§ Create a short play that dramatizes the treatment of widows in a specific context, then invite your audience to discuss what could be done to change the status quo.
§ Arrange for the showing of a movie about the life of widows, for instance “Water” by Deepa Mehta.
§ Organize a fundraiser at which you could talk with people individually or hand out brochures that tell of the need to help widows economically, and how the money raised is going to do that.
§ Invite your book club to read a book
about widows in a developing country and then discuss it together, preferably
on International Widows Day.
§ Ask your faith leader to include a reference to International Widows Day and the plight of widows in their sermon or lecture on the holy day nearest June 23rd.
§ Read to your youth group or Sunday School class the story of one little girl who was determined to change the way widows are treated in her home state (see below) and discuss with them how their lives would change if they lived in India and their mother were to be widowed. What could they do?
§ Your ideas? Share them with readers on the website.
Widows of India: A little girl's efforts to bring a BIG change.
by Mukut | October 15, 2012
Jyoti Yadav, a 13-year-old, from Alwar district, Rajasthan, had seen her mother, a widow, suffer incessantly at the hands of the villagers and family, from a very young age.
She witnessed her mother being ostracized by the villagers and was not allowed to leave the house or attend any community functions such as weddings. The villagers believed that the presence of a widow in a marriage function was inauspicious and brought ill omen to the new family.
Unable to withstand the humiliation and disrespect heaped on her mother, Jyoti decided to change the plight of widows.
She approached her Head teacher and told her that she would like to change the way people think about widows in India.
In 2010, she started campaigning for this cause. She went from house to house trying to convince people to change their attitude and stop the discrimination shown to them.
"Initially, nobody listened to me, as I was so small. Often, I would be thrown out but I did not lose courage and went right back."
She started enacting 'nukkad nataks' (street plays) with 4-5 friends as taught by her teachers. Eventually, the elders decided to give her a hearing but she faced quite a lot of opposition, especially from the men.
"They couldn't digest the fact that a girl was breaking their customs and would beat us up," she says. But that hardly mattered for her.
Unfettered, she carried on to help improve the status of widows in her society.
Her efforts finally paid off.
Widows, like her mother, are now employed as 'anganwadi' [rural child care] workers and are paid Rs.3,500 monthly. They also lead Saksharta Mission (a Govt. of India initiative for spreading education in every nook and corner of the country) and actively participate in social events.
Jyoti Yadav's campaign - "A widower is never held responsible for his wife's death. So why do people start calling the widow a 'witch' and accuse her of her misfortune?" - is now spreading its wings to other villages as well.
Her efforts have been recognized finally and the results have been tremendous.
The immense courage and hope shown by her is inspiring, to say the least. The maturity to see that what is happening around her is wrong and to act upon it, is truly commendable. I hope through her and many others, the stigma attached to widows is erased. I hope to see her campaign reach a National level, where the Government actively promotes and encourages more such steps.
The status of women in modern India, is bit of a paradox. If on one hand, she is at the peak of her ladder of success, on the other hand she is silently suffering the violence afflicted by her own family members. As compared with the past, women in modern India have achieved a lot. But still there are many roadblocks in their path. They have mastered in many fields but still have a long way to go to achieve equal status in our society.
If a young girl can, then we also can. Let us not allow the widows to die unsung. They deserve a fulfilling life too, cherished with dreams and emotions, as much as any other in the society. The following lines from the 'Song of an African Woman' beautifully sums up the desire of every Indian women:
I have only one request.
I do not ask for money
Although I have need of it,
I do not ask for meat.
I have only one request,
And all I ask is,
That you remove
The road block
From my path.
This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.
World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.