This International Widows Day let’s look at the work of Sulabh International Foundation which is helping widows earn a living, providing basic facilities and making this world a better place for them.
Sulabh International Foundation is a Not for Profit Organization based in Vrindavan that works for various social causes, and ‘Sulabh’s Widow Programme’ is one of them. Sulabh was founded by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak in 1970. Greatly influenced by the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and witnessing the sufferings of manual scavengers – who cleaned dry latrines manually and were labeled as untouchables, Mr. Pathak Founded Sulabh. This foundation also actively works towards helping the widows in Vrindavan, Varanasi, and Uttarakhand.
A Home for the Widows
Shunned by their own families, thousands of widows make their way to the holy city of Vrindavan in northern India to find solace. But most of them end up being impoverished and neglected to lead a life of utter deprivation and hardship. Sulabh works to empower and mainstream these widows by providing them with medically equipped ambulances, eye and dental camps, old-age assistance, and monetary help. “Under ‘Sulabh’s Widows Programme‘ all the widows were given a monthly stipend of Rs. 2000 each that brought an end to spending their waking hours begging in the streets and at the holy precincts of the temple town,” says Mr. R. C. Jha (Sr. Vice President at Sulabh International)
Making them Independent
Apart from providing services to the widows, the NGO also helps them become independent with ‘Sulabh’s New Skills Development Programme for Widows.’ It imparts education and vocational training to them, even in their old age, towards their tremendous self-reliance, instilling in them a sense of self-worth through developing their self-confidence.
Sulabh’s vocational training programme has equipped many with a sense of purpose as they earn their livelihood. They are trained in a number of trades like tailoring, where they have been provided with sewing machines and training in tailoring, making incense sticks, and garlands from flowers and beads. “Many have opted to pick up language skills that have helped them in their day-to-day life, be it understanding any written information of relevance or even operating their bank accounts,” said Mr. Jha.
A Gesture of Liveliness
The foundation not only provides them with social and financial support but also takes care of their cultural inclusion, and for that, Dr. Pathak has worked to bring ‘Mothers of Vrindavan’ and that of Varanasi to the mainstream of society. “Widows, now as they are out of the confines of their homesteads, celebrate all the major festivals of the country with never-before gaiety and abandon – the Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the then Honourable President Shri Pranab Mukherjee had been kind enough to make the time to welcome the ‘mothers’ who had tied rakhis to them on occasion, says the foundation.
Sulabh widows programme is both an outcome and a continuing journey of breaking social barriers, the right to live a life of dignity for those who lost their status of even being a respectable social being on losing their husbands for no fault of theirs, and above all, a profound attitudinal change of the society towards them.