I hadn’t really thought much about widows until I read a National Geographic article a few months ago.
In the UK, being a widow is going to be sad – you’ve lost your lifelong partner – and there may be some financial implications.
In some parts of the world, being a widow could be a fate worse than death. Or death itself.
It is very difficult to know how many widows there are in the world but in 2015, it was estimated to be 259 million widows. Many of whom will suffer, along with their children, for the rest of their lives simply because their husband or father has died:
- Mothers and children are often malnourished, exposed to disease, and subject to deprivation
- Widows are raped, forced into new marriages, evicted from their marital home, social isolated, physically abused and murdered
- 1.5 million widows’ children in the world die before their fifth birthday
- If they don’t die, these children will face similar prospects to their mothers; forced marriage, forced labour, sexual abuse and a lack of education
And these aren’t women who were in a great place when their husbands were alive. The main causes of widowhood are HIV/AIDS, armed conflict and poverty. So you have people in a difficult situation who are then dealing with the death of their husband or father and on top of that, what little security they had gets taken away.
And this isn’t temporary. The part of the article which hit me hardest was after a description of being a widow in India when the writer asked the widow:
How old was she now? “Ninety-six.”
And how old when her husband died?
Her entire adult life was defined by the death of her husband. She had spent 79 years being punished for having the misfortune to outlive her husband. 79 years.
The date, 23rd June, was chosen as International Widows day by the Loomba Foundation. It was chosen because it was the day that the father of Lord Loomba had died and left his mother, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba a widow. She would become the inspiration for the Loomba Foundation which works to support widows.