Every year, International Widows Day brings the opportunity to raise awareness of the difficulties widows have to face, to share their stories and have their voice heard, and to empower widows everywhere so that they can support themselves and their children and not fall deeper into the depths of poverty.
Almost a third of the world’s population of widows reside in India and China, that’s more than 46 million women. To put that into perspective, that’s the entire population of Spain.
The plight of widows vary from country to country, depending on their race, culture, society, religion, and age. International Widows Day aims to help the widows worst affected in countries where the government or society fails them, like sub-Saharan Africa, where ‘cleansing’ rituals like having sex with the relatives of the deceased are still practiced. This day is to put an end to the injustices against widows.
Orphans in Need believe in empowering widows. We’ve built houses for many widows and given basic necessities like food, water and medication. We believe in reinstating their rights, helping them become independent and learn skills they can make a living out of just like Fatoumata.
Fatoumata – The Ice Cream lady
Fatoumata Samateh was part of a Widows’ Livelihood Project funded by Orphans in Need. This project empowered widows through supporting small scale businesses and provided training in entrepreneurship so that widows can make a living for themselves.
Fatoumata lives in Brikama, The Gambia. Her husband died in hospital after respiratory failure. Fatoumata has five orphan children out of which only her daughter is sponsored by Orphans in Need. In 2018 Fatoumata took part in the Widows’ Livelihood Project with a small group of widows just like her. The training taught widows how to set up a business, make a profit, and how to save.
What Fatoumata did after her training was amazing.
The training made her more business aware and the extra money she received from her daughter’s sponsorship; she invested in a small business. Fatoumata was lucky to have a freezer so what she did was make wonjo juice, a common Gambian drink made from hibiscus flowers, she froze the juice which Fatoumata then sold as ice lollies. Wonjo juice is a popular drink in The Gambia, so the demand for the ice lollies was always there. With her earnings, Fatoumata was able to do a lot more for her children. She was able to buy more food and medicine when needed, pay her bills on time without a worry, she even had enough to add to her savings account.
Fatoumata is an inspiration to many other widows. Despite the loss of her husband she did not allow herself to become dependent on anyone else. She was determined to make a living to look after her family. Fatoumata is proof of how just a little support and guidance can help widows and orphans live a better quality of life.