Widows face an uphill battle after losing spouses – Part 2

WILL POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World and its affiliates such as Gospel for Asia Canada) founded by KP Yohannan, released this latest part of the GFA Special Report Update on the plight of widows in wealthy and developing countries.

Widows like these across South Asia need help to ease their plight.

Persistent superstitions

Many might think that such marginalization only happened in centuries past, but these recent stories illustrate the persistence of ancient customs, superstitions and cultural prejudices. According to Global Widows Fundnot only do many countries prevent widows from inheriting her legitimate property when her husband dies, but some allow women to become part of his estate.

A widow with her son and family
This widow lives with her son and his family in West Bengal, India. Her husband was killed by a tiger while working. Some widows even witness these attacks and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder while grieving.

Such realities underscore the need for International Widows Day, 15 years after the Loomba Foundation established the first observance to draw attention to the experiences of widows and galvanize further public support.

They are ‘stigmatized, shunned and shamed’ UN said. “And many of these abuses go unnoticed, even normalized. International Widows Day is an opportunity for action for the realization of all rights and the recognition of widows.

Then there are the problems caused by war and other conflicts. To examine this, UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – sent a journalist to Mosul, Iraq, towards the end of the government’s on-and-off three-year battle to defeat militant extremists.

The agency looked at the impact of the fighting, which continued long after the battle had ended. Among the victims was Asmaa Mahmood, captured with her husband and two young daughters. Two weeks after their capture and separation, Asmaa learned that her husband had been killed. Predictably, she suffered from shock, psychological trauma and grief.

According to the World Bank, policy reforms that can help address the disadvantages of widows relate to land ownership, inheritance rights, registration of customary marriages and widows’ pensions.

More than 900,000 fled after the latest military operation began to retake the town in late 2016. In a camp run by UNHCR and its partners, female-headed households accounted for more than a quarter of the total: 1,250 out of 4,463 families.

Widows like Asmaa, 25 faces desperate situations. She hadn’t even told her children of their father’s death after arriving at the refugee camp, evading the truth by telling her daughters that he was working and would be back soon.

“I’m so exhausted worrying about my children’s future,” she said. “Now I have no one to rely on. All I want to do is keep my two daughters alive. I don’t worry about myself. I just don’t want my daughters to feel any different. other girls who have a father.

GFA Sisters of Compassion serve these desperate widows in the slums
These widows living in the slums of Mumbai come together for support, prayer and practical assistance from local pastors and Sisters of Compassion serving GFA World.

Considering such heartbreaking situations, the release of a widow-related TV series in 2019 may seem like a trivial thing. Yet, although the six-hour series is primarily an adventure tale, the airing of The widow on Amazon Prime shows token awareness of the situation.

Co-produced by Amazon and Britain’s ITV, the eight episodes received critical acclaim in the influential Atlantic magazine. Yet critical Sophie Gilbert famed star Kate Beckinsale gave the title character a “confidence in her action scenes that is intermittently thrilling”. In real life, the courage of widows is indeed something to behold. As a TV mini-series shines a light on their plight in front of viewers, widows need real substantive action from governments, NGOs and individuals like you and me to help them survive financially and emotionally, even when they are in pain.

Silent help

While International Widows’ Day shines a light on the issues faced by widows, much of the work done to alleviate their suffering and deprivation is done in a low-key way.

GFA had 32 teams working across South Asia where 22% of the world's widows live

In 2018, GFA had 32 teams working across South Asia, home to 22% of the world’s widow population, to meet the specific needs of widows.

In Asian cultures, many widows are considered a curse and may be shunned by society, including relatives.

The following facts show a sample of what desperate widows face in this part of the world:

Widows are often forcibly removed from their homes and extended families by the husband’s family after his death.

Widows are often wrongly accused of having caused the death of their husbands.

As the level of education of widows is generally much lower, 19 million of them live in extreme poverty, earning less than 2 dollars a day.

Remarriage of widows in this part of the world is low, so street begging or prostitution often becomes a way of life for young widows.

Many widows have to care for their children with little help from relatives.

And sometimes children are forcibly separated from their mothers.

When not removed, children from low-income families often have to enter the workforce to support their widowed mothers and other siblings.

Consider these practical examples of the impact of widowhood on real people in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and other parts of South Asia, home to 57.8 million widows. There are Ria, who at 57 was shrouded in the shame of widowhood when her husband died of an unknown illness. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt, she struggled for three years to get out of bed.

Then there is Premamother of two young children who suddenly finds herself widowed and without a source of income.

And Amey, who struggled to overcome almost insurmountable odds when riots hit her small village and officials tried to extort a fortune from her husband, a dried fish seller. When he refused, they killed him in his home. This left Amey with four children to raise on her own, forcing her to sell their possessions in a desperate fight for survival. When she ran out of money and revived her husband’s business, her success aroused the jealousy of other traders, who harassed her and even tried to kill her.

Amey and his family
I had to go through a lot of issues after my husband died,” Amey recalled (above). “To protect my children, I had to sell my property… Our economic situation went from bad to worse… I was mentally exhausted…”

In each case, the help of GFA workers brought light and hope and shared how much God loved and cared for them. Through a GFA initiative teaching women to develop skills and become self-sufficient, Prema learned to sew and received a sewing machine to help her generate income. After a neighbor invited Amey to attend church, she and her daughters found the inspiration and support to start a new spice business.

I have no words to thank my Lord Jesus for the miracles he has done in my life,” said Amy. “I am so grateful that he saved me and also protected me in order to be the strength of my daughters. Now we live with the grace of God, and our lives have been immensely blessed.

In addition to income-generating gifts, GFA provides widows with clothing and other essentials, comfort, encouragement, and the lifeline of prayer support. GFA also maintains a website, www.mygfa.org, which equips those who want to run grassroots fundraising campaigns. These funds help the poor, including widows, and equip missionaries in the most difficult parts of Asia, where millions have yet to experience his love.

Dr. KP Yohannan comforting widow

“The Bible says that true religion is to care for orphans and widows in their distress,” says Dr Yohannan. “The challenge facing the Church in the world today is not just to read the Bible, but to follow its teachings.”

These teachings apply the same today as they did thousands of years ago.

If you would like to do something now to help widows around the world, please consider one or more of the following ideas:


Raise awareness of the plight of widows by sharing this article with your friends and family via social media, email or via a link on your blog.


Interview a GFA World representative on this topic for your podcast or radio show. To facilitate this idea, email [email protected]

Donate to GFA to help widows in Asia

Donate to help widows in Asia by donating to GFA World.


Identify a widow you know personally and invite her to lunch or dinner, with the goal of better understanding her and her needs. Act on what you learn to make a difference for that person.

Donate to help widows

If this special report has touched you and you would like to do something about the plight of widows around the world today, please share this article with your friends and consider doing a generous donation to GFA World to help widows in South Asia and beyond.

About Gospel for Asia

Gospel for Asia (GFA World, www.gfa.org) is a leading faith-based missionary agency, helping national workers bring life-saving assistance and spiritual hope to millions of people across Asia, especially those who have not yet heard of the love of God. In the latest GFA annual report, this included over 70,000 children sponsored, free medical camps held in over 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy people. families and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages ​​in 14 countries through the radio ministry. For all the latest news, visit our newsroom at https://press.gfa.org/news.