Widows as a group are not often thought about, and as a group of suffering women are usually forgotten. Yet, there are 258 million widows in the world. The number has increased 9% since 2010 due to conflicts in the Middle East. One widow in seven lives on $1 a day or less. The Loomba Foundation, a British charity has issued a report which they presented to the UN documenting the plight of these women. In the US a widow with children will face obstacles, but usually surmountable ones. For one thing in the US women can work, or go to school adding to their options as widows. The options before them may not always be easy, but they are there. In many countries of the world, such is not the case. Widows may be blamed for their husband’s death, accused of witchcraft, even more so if they are older. They may be forced to undergo rituals such as drinking the water from which the body of her husband was washed, or have sex with brothers. They may be under the control of their in laws, destitute, their children may be taken away, they may be banished, or if not, exploited and abused, physically, emotionally and sexually. The case of young girls marrying older men is particularly poignant, and sometimes such women are forced to marry their daughters early too should they be unable to take care of them. Widows are most often the subject of taboos and superstitions and treated like pariahs. As can be surmised the children are as victimized as the mothers. The Loomba Foundation which provides training and help to widows so that they can support themselves and their children, recommends policy changes, as well as funding groups who also provide the needed help and support. And while these remedies will undoubtedly make a difference, they do not seem to reach the root of the problem—For the suffering of widows is a vivid example of what happens when women are not treated equally.
One thought on “The Forgotten Widows”
Good to be reminded of what the women of our world have and what they still lack, especially in societies where females are closely bound by traditions of male dominance. Human rights must be gender free..hopefully within this decade…
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