Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Disability of Widowhood

1st FEW Workshop
June 23rd is an annual global day of action approved by the United Nations to raise awareness about the plight of widows and their children across the cultures of the world and provide support for them. It addresses specifically poverty, grief, injustice, and all ills that widows face.

Many of them suffer injustice, stigma, illiteracy, forced marriage, targeted murder, physical abuse, persecution, social isolation, sever insecurity, eviction, etc. Widows and their children are vulnerable to all forms of exploitations, cruelties and biases, as they are most times treated worse than other women. If a woman faces discrimination, a widow faces double discrimination.

A widow is one whose husband is dead and buried. St. Paul defines a “true” widow as one who is truly without a husband and relatives in the world, who puts all her hope in God and prays all the time, including day and night, assuming that she believes in Christ (1 Timothy 5:5, 9,10).

Widowhood is a disability, which can degenerate to a serious handicap. It has become an epidemic, which although very close to all, has remained a silent humanitarian crisis.

Widowhood is a disability, where disability can be defined as a state of being physically or mentally incapacitated. In other words, it means not having the physical or mental ability to do things. A disability may not be a handicap to a person if she can perform her job, relate with family, friends and society, but if the disability interferes with one’s job performance and relationship with others in the society, then it is a serious handicap. Disability is generally viewed from the point of view of the loss of functions of a part of the human body. 

Widowhood can be considered a disability and handicap from the point of view of the loss of, not a part of one’s physical body, but some kind of “extension” of it that affects adversely performance as a wife and partner in homebuilding. When one loses a husband, it can be like losing a part of the body, and such a person can feel as disabled as one who has lost her limbs. A woman who loses a husband loses more than a husband, and she finds herself in a desperate situation on all fronts. Widows are abused physically, psychologically and sexually. They have no voice and they have no place in the main stream of society, most of the time.

Many widows depend on their children for more support than the children can offer. The children have to help their mothers in whatever meagre business they have to survive. Such children have to be engaged in child labour sometimes and they become prime targets of many abuses. They experience homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, child marriage, forced labour, prostitution, rape, sexual slavery, and all kinds of terrible things.

The worst part of it all is that the widows are ill-equipped to deal with their situation, no matter their level. Majority of them have no education and lack the skills and where-with-all to engage in meaningful business. That is why widowhood initiates a vicious cycle of poverty since in most communities, widows lack human rights, inheritance rights, economic opportunities and they are extremely vulnerable.

What can be done to help the situation?

The disability of widowhood should not be allowed to turn into and remain a handicap. Beyond providing a legal instrument that guides widowhood, there is need for a more concrete plan of action. We need to provide a structure of support for widows raising children to learn skills to help them do so. We need to train them to enter the work force. We need to teach them skills in basic literacy, sewing, embroidery, beadwork, woodwork, computer skills, etc. We need to offer them micro-loans to build businesses out of the skills. We need to educate the widows’ children and improve their job prospects as well. In the words of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “We must erase the social stigmatisation and economic deprivation that confront widows; eliminate their high risk in sexual abuse and exploitation; and remove the barriers to resources and economic opportunities that constrain their future… . On International Widows’ Day, let us resolve to end discriminatory attitudes and take action to ensure that widows of all ages enjoy equal human rights, including the right to shape their own future and to participate fully in society. This will be an essential element in realizing our vision of a life of dignity for all.

1 comment:

  1. Priceless write up... Very touching indeed. This disability can and should be addresses seriously by those in authority, its worth it.