The global widows’ estimate stands at about 245million as of 2010 (Loomba Report). The same report indicates that in 2015, there were 22,153,905 widows in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their children numbered 112,984,916 in the same year. These numbers are staggering.
Widows and their children form an unfortunate block of the world’s most disadvantaged and discriminated groups and they continue to face increased challenges as a result of epidemics, war, economic collapse and stagnation. The 2015 Global Widows Report notes that widows’ deprivation has been consistently and comprehensively ignored, despite the fact that the conditions many of them are forced to live in, qualify as a humanitarian emergency and as significant human rights violations.
Widows face seizure of their children, possessions & homes, harmful traditional practices, sexual Gender-based-violence, armed conflict, extreme poverty & starvation as well as social exclusion. Despite these, they have remained invisible to the public and policy makers. Their children often have to endure extreme poverty, child/forced labor, prostitution, or are used as bargaining chips to guarantee widows of their economic assets and rights. Collectively, and through no fault of their own, they have little hope of reversing a life of diminishing options. Whereas a small group of commendable researchers and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have sought to focus on the issue, with intermittent support from the United Nations, the lack of mainstream attention has meant that the issue has remained under the radar of even the most pro-active governments.
Absence of widow desaggregated data is often scarce an therefore the true magnitude of widowed women’s and girls’ numbers and their problems remain unknown. In addition, high malemortality and child marriages are much higher in developing countries, occasioning the risk of girls and young women becoming widows. In Sub-Saharan Africa, widows form the last tier of adults left to manage communities decimated by HIV/AIDS.
Widowhood is therefore grief, pain and abandonment in most parts of the world. She becomes an outsider, ostracized and an object of ridicule. In short, her life deteriorates giving way to insecurity, fear and poverty. Her situation is compounded by the presence of children who she now has to counsel, reassure and bring up on her own. Her status in marriage largely depends on the presence of the man. So, when her husband dies she faces multi-layered discrimination. This situation persists in most of the world and is simply known as dehumanization of women.
We partner with various organizations for example Global Fund for widows through the Table banking project where widows’ economic empowerment activity is boosted.
Uptake of government funds set aside for women, where we team up with ministry of Public Service and Gender Affairs to expose widows to the funds which include the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF), Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) and UWEZO fund.
This helps us to achieve the following Sustainable Development Goals SDG 1: No poverty and SDG 2: Zero Hunger because widows are now Economically independent.
Cometogether Widows and Orphans organization team's up with partners who have legal expertise like FIDA Kenya, Commission of Administrative Justice (CAJ) and Law Society of Kenya whereby we offer paralegal trainings to our widows. Through this we are able to achieve Sustainable Development Goals SDG 5, Gender Equality and SDG 10, Reduced inequalities. This also enables widows to represent themselves in courts and fight for their rights.
Cottage industries like beadwork, knitting and crocket to widows. For instance, we have skills training centres in different counties like in Nairobi and Kiambu where we train widows and equip them with skills like tailoring skills, computer skills and knitting skills.
CTWOO participates in formulating and lobbying for policies that outlaw gender-based-discrimination-practices against widows. For instance, participation on National Gender Sector Working groups meetings.
In 2016 we drafted a widows’ Bill which was presented to the Government containing laws that protect widows from any form of abuse or discrimination.