New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Recognising the plight of widows in India whose lives are often mired in poverty and neglect, the UN Tuesday launched a new programme for widows in India and neighbouring Nepal and Sri Lanka on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
In India, the programme will particularly focus on widows affected by HIV.
Anne F. Stenhammer, regional programme director of UN Women South Asia, said: “India has an estimated 40 million widows in India, and their lives are often mired in poverty, neglect, and deprivation. The time has come for us to act and create space for widows in mainstream policy and social welfare schemes”.
The three-year programme, funded jointly by UN Women Swiss national committee and the Standard Chartered Bank, will be implemented to reduce the social ostracism faced by widows.
UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and empowerment of women.
“The programme will be conducted by collecting data and evidence to highlight the stigma faced by them, by working with widows’ coalitions so they can speak up and access public services, and finally by guaranteeing that discriminatory social practices against widows are reviewed and repealed,” a statement said.
Plans are also afoot to work with local community leaders so they can help to champion the cause of widows.
“While in India, UN Women will work with widows affected by HIV, the focus will be on young widows in Nepal and widows living in conflict areas in Sri Lanka,” the statement added.
A survey conducted by the Guild of Service and UN Women on the widows in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh revealed that the widows are extremely poor monetarily, living well below the poverty line defined by the World Bank and even the planning commission.
Although 70 percent of the women had heard of the destitute widow’s pension scheme, only a quarter of all widows received pension.