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Widows around the globe

Illuminating the plight of widows

The plights of widows across the globe are quite obvious and cannot be under estimated. The challenges swiftly growing daily, while the governments and respective agencies concerned not effectively acting as expected in meeting both primary and secondary needs of these helpless and lonely women, particularly in the third world countries.

In many parts of the world, losing one’s husband is about much more than coping with grief, loneliness, or financial upheaval. A husband’s death may plunge a woman into a state of widowhood—enforced by cultural, social, or legal bonds—she cannot leave. Widows are cast out. Their possessions, their land, and even their children can be taken from them.

For instance becoming a widow in Malawi is to fall into extreme poverty. Malawi is one of the world's poorest country. The situation is aggravated by the widespread of property grabbing which local governments have tried to curb but every effort to halt that has been proved abortive. Widowhood has been described to represent a "Social death" in Malawi.

There is a story of a woman in Uganda, a country in the eastern part of Africa. After she lost her husband was informed by her husband relatives that they were taking her six children and the land where she grew her family’s food—and that she would become the third wife of her husband’s oldest brother. She seriously had to fight against this obnoxious acts with the help of a  legal team from a U.S.-based non-profit called International Justice Mission to make sure Uganda’s laws, which prohibit exactly this behaviour, were enforced. It was a long and ugly battle, but today she has her children and home and isn’t in a forced marriage. One of the men who attacked her went to jail.

Another world of pathetic pains and sufferings for the widows is Asian countries of  India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

In India, which is a home to almost 40 million widows. Entering into widowhood is not just changing of status after the demise of husbands but entering into widowhood is more hazardous, painful and humiliating to women than to a widower because of the discrimination and ritual sanctions of the society against the widows. The pronoun "She" in most cases has been replaced for "It" to majority of widows in India since less recognition is given to them. Many of them are abandoned in Vrindavan, without welfare infrastructure and financial security. Widows in India not only suffer with social and economic sanctions but also face many psychological consequences, loneliness and in some cases deprivation causing emotional imbalance and disturbances.

Similar to India, is Nepal, where the situation is worse as a patriarchal mindset still prevails in the country. The social stigma attached to such widowed women has profound consequences on them, including economic deprivation. Many widows also regularly face physical, psychological and sexual abuse and torture. A few even lose their lives after being accused of witchcraft.

Worldwide, the plights of widows cannot be over emphasized since same or different challenges are faced by them. Even in developed countries of Europe and America - widows still cry.

Research reveals that there  are large differences across countries in Europe. For example, widowed persons in Greece and Portugal have the lowest income – less than a half that of those widowed in Austria. Further, the income reduction upon widowhood is generally larger for widows than it is for widowers. The difference in income between the genders is largest in Denmark, Spain, Austria and Finland, where widowers enjoy an income that is more than 30% higher that of widows.

In America, it is generally believed sometimes that the death of the husband induces poverty. According to David Wise - a Professor of political economics, he says; "when the husband died, 40 percent of the surviving widows fell below the poverty line within a year".

Widows globally face a lot of challenges ranging from food insecurity due to lack of farm inputs and farming land, lack of good shelter, failure to find basic and school necessities for their children, difficulty in accessing working capital for small- scale businesses, sexually abused and victimisation by harmful cultural practices.

In spite of these challenges, widows, themselves are agents of change. They need to champion their cause as progress cannot be forthcoming unless a drastic step is taken.