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• 17 April

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Challenging Social Prejudices Against Widows and Orphans

In the Western developed world, society is governed by equality both at home and in the workplace.

Whether you are male or female, you receive the same education, have the freedom to apply for the same jobs, and have equal access to government benefits. We take this for granted.

If you lose your spouse and your parents, you are treated with kindness and compassion, not judgment and ostracisation – which is, unfortunately, the case for millions of women and children in poorer developing countries across the globe.

It is for this reason that many charities in the UK are specifically set up seeking support to help orphans and widows through their online charity platforms.

 

The Impact of Losing the Male Provider

The loss of a loved partner or parent evokes its own experiences of grief and trauma, particularly if the loss is premature. Often, in more volatile countries, a husband may lose their life earlier than expected through conflict or because of the lack of health and safety in working environments. As a consequence, women who are reliant on their husbands as their only source of income are left with small children to feed and care for, with no other source of income.

As a result, that sense of loss and grief is further compounded by the stigmatisation that comes from not having a male figure to provide for and protect the mother. Through no fault of her own, the widow can be subject to a complete loss of her human rights and sense of dignity, leaving her and her children destitute. It is for this reason that a special widow charity is so important to ease the burden that poverty places on these women.

No Income, No Hope

While the loss of a working-age husband means the loss of that wage, even the loss of an older husband can mean that any pension also stops with immediate effect. There may be no inheritance rights; they may even be evicted from their homes.

Many of these women have been brought up with minimal education and no expectation of working, so their options are limited to the most exploitative, minimum-wage occupations, which will probably be difficult to balance with childcare.

A Threat to Overall Safety

In many communities, widowhood can lead to the woman being ostracised from society, even if she has family members still within that environment. Her status is dependent on her having a husband, and the loss of that husband reduces her status accordingly, causing her to be shunned or opening her up to abuse and exploitation.

There are even communities in which the death of the husband can be seen as the fault of the woman. If the death was the result of an illness, the woman may be perceived as a carrier of disease, and she is subjected to horrific ‘cleansing’ rituals.

Younger women may be forced to remarry to other members of a family, even if they do not consent to do so. This is particularly prevalent with older men who may have become widowed themselves. A woman without a husband is considered shameful, and marrying them off within the family stops any shame that the family may feel. Unfortunately, the woman has absolutely no say over her fate, and she loses bodily autonomy, which in turn opens her up to potential assault and violation. Her children may also be at risk of abuse.

How to Help Orphans and Widows

Donating to a charity dedicated to helping orphans and widows will help not only provide food and shelter but, just as importantly, help to raise awareness of the dire situation for these women and children to help drive societal change.

International Widows Day takes place on 23 June every year, with the aim of addressing the injustices that these women are forced to face. It is estimated that there are 250 million widows worldwide, and of this number, 115 million are subject to social ostracisation, stigmatisation and enforced poverty and destitution.

Much work still needs to be done to make deep-seated changes. Specific areas to tackle include:

  • Implementing widespread economic reforms that protect the rights of widows and orphans, particularly with regard to inheritance. They need to retain rights over their own homes and not have them taken away.
  • Eliminating patriarchal systems that deny women the right of property ownership, access to equal pay, and eligibility for benefits.
  • Improve educational opportunities for young girls, changing their futures and helping them to understand how they can empower themselves better.
What Can You Do to Support Our Widow Charity in the UK?

The very fundamental necessities of food and shelter are enough to help a widow and her children stand on their own two feet and start to build their own lives on their own terms after the death of their loved one.

Imagine if this were your own mother. Imagine her pain and sadness of being abandoned and left destitute, shunned by her family, and stigmatised for entering a status over which she has absolutely no control.

Every penny you donate through Orphans in Need is put towards ensuring these women and their children avoid that sense of destitution and isolation. From ensuring a regular supply of food parcels to building and furnishing a proper home where the widow and her family can live in peace and security, a regular monthly donation will make a significant difference to so many lives.