Life After Loss
International Widows’ Day 2019
Losing a husband for any reason, whether it be to tragedy, conflict or illness, is a heart wrenching experience, one that words can’t quite convey. A woman’s whole world is so suddenly changed forever, and yet they must carry on, for their children, for their families and for themselves.
For some women though, the difficult process of moving forward is not only due to the grief and emotional trauma of losing a loved one. The loss of their husbands is only the first trauma many of these women experience, as financial burdens, familial cruelty, displacement and anxiety loom in front of them.
There are an estimated 258 million widows worldwide, with every 1 in 7 of these women living in extreme poverty. Women faced with widowhood experience discrimination and abuse within their communities, often being denied inheritance and facing eviction and property seizures after their husbands’ death.
Now as the sole provider for their household, countless widows face extreme poverty; some are forced to remove their children from school in order to make ends meet, while others rely on the kindness of their neighbours and NGOs to put food on the table.
Being a vulnerable woman, in a time of great bereavement, is a frightening situation to be placed in. The threat of violence and sexual assault is something that plagues many widows, leaving them with a feeling of terror, even within their own homes.
In many instances, widows are swept to the wayside, forgotten by society and a pariah to those around them. For these bereaved women to have any hope of finding life after loss, the gross negligence of their suffering needs to change.
The 23rd of June is International Widows Day 2019, so take this chance to remember the widows of the world, keep them in your duas and offer them your practical support. Penny Appeal has many programmes in place to ease the suffering of these grieving women and help them build a better future.
One such programme is our Widow Empowerment in Gaza, a project designed to uplift widowed women through psychosocial support, stress management, training in handling finances and trauma counselling. We provide these women with the power to achieve their dreams, through business start-up grants and university degrees. With Penny Appeal’s support, these widows have the chance to become more than their loss, to overcome the trauma and craft a self-reliant future.
Another platform that offers support and aid to struggling widows is Penny Appeal’s Women Friendly Spaces. These spaces, in locations such Bangladesh and Indonesia, provide a safe space for women to confide in each other, seek council and obtain medical attention.
Our Women Friendly Spaces are private and confidential, assuring that any problems vulnerable widows and women face are handled with the upmost of care. These spaces are also used to train and support women in livelihood development, so they can learn to support themselves and their children.
You can support a Women Friendly Space for £20 a month, or £240 a year, allowing widowed women in refugee camps to feel safe and protected during the most devastating periods of their lives.
International Widows Day highlights the struggles grieving widows go through on a daily basis, and the fears they harbour within themselves. Many of us with never have to cope these struggles or deal with such worries, but we can try to understand their suffering and give them our compassion and support.
Arifa is a 25-year-old, loving mother of two and a widow who lives in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. She comes to the Women Friendly Space at the camp on a daily basis; it’s the only place she feels truly at peace anymore.
After the death of her husband and being forced to flee her home in Myanmar with her two young daughters, Arifa struggles daily with her grief and trying to provide for her children.
“Since this centre opened, I come here every day because I can feel peace here, I can wash myself and I can talk to friends here and sleep properly.
At home I can’t sleep because when I close my eyes I see all the things that happened to me and my husband at home – they killed my husband.
There are lots of women here to make conversation with and new friends to make.
I have no husband, no parents, but I have two children. I came here with them.
I still don’t know exactly what happened to my husband. In the evening [of the violence] we went near the forest. There was a canal and boat men from another village, and they helped us to cross.
It was a nine-day journey.
The experience of living in the camp is difficult to explain. At night I feel really unsafe, like maybe some man is coming to the door to do something to me. Also when I get food it’s not enough, we finish before we get it again and have to borrow from neighbours
I heard something from people that sexual violence is happening to lone women, which is why I feel afraid at night when I’m alone with 2 children. I’m also afraid of human trafficking, child trafficking… maybe someone will take my children.
My children are playing in the centre now – they are 8 and 5 years old, both girls.
Yes, I really feel very afraid for my two daughters, we are all female, I am thinking about their future when they grow up – how will I be able to provide what they need?
I feel a little peace here in the centre, but at home every second is really every hard because I remember everything that happened in Myanmar. Thinking about this situation sometimes, I go faint and my neighbours have to pour water on me to bring me back to life.”
This International Widows Day, do something to help widows like Arifa have a better life. Whether it’s making a donation to support Widow Empowerment in Gaza, sending funds to one of our Women Friendly Spaces or simply spreading awareness of widows’ rights, you have the power to help these women find peace through their bereavement. Be sure to act on it for International Widows Day 2019.
SUNDAY 23 JUN 2019