Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM

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Programme in Development Management

Indian Widows: A struggle for survival

By Ravi Raj

On 05 February, 2011, after a long gap, we resumed the flim-club activities with the screening of “India Widows’, a short documentary that presents the condition in India for widows, particlarly elderly widows. The documentary depicted the situation for women in India where, often, after the death of a husband, the widowed wife is not accepted by society, but instead, is treated like a sin. Many times, even the woman’s children will neglect her, often throwing their mother out of the house. The widows are seen as a liability and an extra expense burden that the children do not want to take on.

During discussion, many questions were raised. Why is this happening? Who is responsible? What kinds of interventions are needed to overcome this problem? We acknowledged that in today’s society, a young widow can survive to some extent and in some cases can even re-marry. However, for elderly widows, the conditions are terrible: they feel helpless, lonely, and vulnerable. Even in cases where there are many children—where you would expect at least one child to take responsibility—the children just go around saying it is the other child’s responsibility. This scenario has been depicted in Bollywood movies like Bagwan and Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. We also shared many live examples from our surroundings where elderly parents—not only widows—are mistreated. For instance, in families with small houses, after the marriage of their son, the parents start to live just outside the house; after some time, the son’s family pushes the parents even further away.

We need to re-think how we treat widows. At more than 14,000,000 women, the number of widows is not small, and we should not simply say that we treat them this way because “It is our culture.” We need to start an awareness programme to help people understand the responsibility of the family, and we need to reassess opportunities for younger widowed women.

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Filed under: Non-Academic, PDM 11, , , ,

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