Jan 21, 2015
The four square hall filled with over 120 widows in Mallampall village of Warangal, india was serene when we arrived. The women sat on the ground in their usually manner by folding their legs. Some of us sat on the ground with them to give them a sense of belonging. Part of the experience learning of the Community Driven Development Training was a visit to the widowhood meeting. We have been informed of the plights of the widows in india and how the women will cry because of the ill treatment they received from the society and their late husband’s family.
After the warm welcome with a song in telugu, the coordinator started to ask some questions. They have been told to close their eyes as they answer the questions by raising their hands. She also spoke in teluge but Sunitha was there to interpret to the CDD team. More than half of the women are between the age of 18 - 30years, they raised their hands to indicate. They were very young indeed. She asked so many questions and these women raised their hands with their eye closed. They all have children, some one, two and more than three. Only one had no child. Their husbands had dead of out drinking alcohol, sudden death, committed suicide, illness including AIDS and other reasons.
Many of the women were crying as their raise their hand to each question; some CDD participants also had drops of tears in their eyes. Surprisingly, many of the women wants to committee suicide because of their situation, they raised their hands to indicate. Almost all of them are do not have money to take care of their children and have not been able to pay all them owe.
...........I did not understand the words of the song, the coordinator sang in telugu in a very sorrowful tone and slowly. Almost all the women seated on the ground cried the more. I was very troubled as she sings, what is she saying to them that make them cry more and more, I said to myself? I wanted to stop her from singing; I hate to see women cry. These women are already hurt and in pain. What they need is a joyful song that will raise their hope for the future, I thought to myself. The woman beside me wept more and more, that I opened my bag and brought out my little towel to wipe her face. Her weeping started even when the coordinator was asking the questions. She raised her hand severally to the questions as it concerns her. I just wanted to be strong at least for one person - to consoling her.
Those who were courageous, yet in pain and sorrow still came forward to share their stories of agony as a widow. One of the women said, her husband died when her son was 9 months. Now he keeps asking of his father because other children at school also talk about her father. The little always ask why she does not decorate herself like our women. She feels so bad when her boy ask so many questions.
The children of the widows also had sorrow in their heart, they wept as they share their own side of the story for their mother. They have wonderful dreams - to be a nurse; police officer which she said is her mother’s dream to make her happy. Finally, my tear dropped as Sunitha explained in English what the little girl said, ........she will treat her mother as her daughter when she makes money because her mother has suffered so much for them to go to school.
Life situation of widows in the rural areas is quite deplorable. They are ill-treated and are forced to accept and live sub human existence. They face social exclusion and harassment. They are discouraged from wearing good clothes or applying any make up. Though legally they have equal rights, society shows disparity, restricts their social behaviour and does not approve of their remarriage.
“Widowhood is a state of social death, even among the higher castes,” says Mohini Giri, a veteran activist in the fight for women’s rights who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. “Widows are still accused of being responsible for their husband’s death, and they are expected to have a spiritual life with many restrictions which affects them both physically and psychologically.”
Although widows today are not forced to die in ritual sati (burning themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre), they are still generally expected to mourn until the end of their lives.
Whether young or old, widowed women leave behind their colorful saris, flowers on her hair and her bands are broken by force after her husband’s death. Widows seem to follow rules based on tradition because they have internalized them. They keep doing what other widows did without asking, resigned to a kind of fate—such as placing restrictions on their own diets. In much of Indian society—across caste and religion—a widow is often perceived by family members to be a burden and sexually threatening toward marriages. They are not allowed to participate in occasions – parties, wedding. They are not allowed to bless the couple even their own children because of the believe that long exist.
The widows are coerced to live a life devoid of any happiness, comfort and companionship. The option of remarriage is eliminated and ceases to exist for them. They have to spend their entire life singing bhajans and eating insipid food as spices are supposed to arouse sexual desire.
Bala Vikasa PDTC has over 15,000 widows in more than 8,000 villages in Warangal, india. They bring about an attitudinal change in the society to end social disparity, stop suicides among widows and ensure social justice to them. They also ensure that the women are not called with the name “widow”. Special sessions for widows were held to help them face life bravely and to move forward in life confidently. They were encouraged to live normal lives, like other women. They also distribute money and food to all widows present at the meeting.