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UN Women's scheme for widows

Aarti Dhar

‘Time has come to create space for them in mainstream policy, welfare schemes'

New Delhi: To mark the 100 {+t} {+h} anniversary of International Women's Day on Tuesday, UN Women announced a new regional programme to address the needs of widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

“India has an estimated 40 million widows, and their lives are often mired in poverty, neglect, and deprivation. The time has come for us to act and create space for widows in mainstream policy and social welfare schemes. Their situation has to be recognised and addressed,” said Anne F. Stenhammer, Regional Programme Director, UN Women South Asia.

Highlighting stigma

The three-year programme, funded jointly by UN Women Swiss National Committee and Standard Chartered Bank, will be implemented in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to reduce social ostracism faced by widows. This will be done by collecting data and evidence to highlight the stigma faced by them, by working with widows' coalitions so they can speak up and access public services, and finally by guaranteeing that discrimination and social practices against widows are reviewed and repealed.

Focus on young widows

 Plans are also afoot to work with local community leaders for the cause of widows. While in India, UN Women will work with widows affected by HIV, the focus will be on young widows in Nepal and widows living in conflict areas in Sri Lanka. The programme will be implemented in partnership with [non-governmental organisations] Guild of Service and Astha Sansthan in India, Women for Human Rights (WHR) in Nepal, and Women's Education and Research Centre in Sri Lanka.

 A survey, done to gauge the situation of widows in Vrindavan [in Uttar Pradesh] by Guild of Service and UN Women, revealed that widows are living well below the poverty line defined by the World Bank and the Planning Commission. Although 70 per cent of the women had heard of the destitute widow's pension scheme, only a quarter of widows received the pension.

UN Women, formally known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, is the United Nations' most ambitious effort ever to accelerate actions to achieve gender equality.

Meanwhile, Partners for Law in Development (PLD) also launch the CEDAW [Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women] South Asia website. This site has been developed as a comprehensive resource for the South Asia region to facilitate regional sharing and to strengthen implementation of CEDAW. The web resources have been produced by PLD with support from UN Women to enable easy access to CEDAW related material.

The website offers user-friendly layout and gives basic yet comprehensive information. The content is layered, providing basic information on CEDAW with the option of sourcing more detailed information.

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