Dare to hope: International Widow’s Day

By June 23, 2016

India (MNN) — International Widow’s Day occurs on the 23rd day of June every year to address the difficulties of the millions of widows’ across the world who are experiencing poverty and social deprivation after losing their husbands.

(Widows in India often beg near train stations/Photo courtesy Mission India)

(Widows in India often beg near train stations/Photo courtesy Mission India)

In India, women are not often educated, but they are married at an early age. That makes them dependent on their husbands.

If their husband dies, they would depend on charity or live homeless since they lack inheritance on property rights.

Widows are often treated as bad omens.  Lindsay Ackerman, a spokeswoman for Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India, explains,  “In the United States, when we lose a spouse, it’s a heartbreaking, devastating loss, but we’re able to create a life for ourselves, be independent, own a home, have a job, and support our families. In India, that’s just not an option for millions of women who are widows today.”

Regarded as an “untouchable,” a widow’s status couldn’t get much worse. ”She has been raised her entire life to believe she is there to serve her husband, her son, her father-in-law, that she is going to be second.”

Without a husband, she’s shunned and degraded. Without a source of income or job skills, many widows fall prey to slavery and the sex trade.

Who are the widows?

International Widow’s Day raises awareness about their plight; and in doing so, helps ministries provide solutions that both educate and empower widows’.

Ackerman says Mission India also shares a message these women have likely never heard before: ”What we bring to these widows [is] the knowledge that they are loved and cherished by God. That is astonishing news to a widow in India; that there’s a God who loves her and who created her in His image, and cherishes her, and wants good things for her.”

(Photo courtesy Mission India)

(Photo courtesy Mission India)

Ackerman shares Punia’s story:

Punia’s husband died in an accident at work. The workplace gave her some money to help compensate for the death of her spouse, but her in-laws took it and then kicked her out of the house.

Punia had a young son, then around 7 or 8-years old, and was stunned to find herself trying to figure out how to keep the two of them fed, healthy and safe.

Never having been to school before, she didn’t begin to have the first clue about navigating the world around them.  They resorted to the one thing they could do: begging at the train station.

It was humiliating work, not to mention, dangerous.  One day, Punia’s son was invited to a Children’s Bible Club, a 10-day club sponsored by believers, taught by local Christians.

It’s another touch point, says Ackerman.  “You don’t often think [when you are sponsoring a child in a Children’s Bible Club] about that mom you may be reaching, but you’re also impacting that mom.  For Punia, when her son came home and started talking about Christ and the love of God for both of them, and started talking about these people who were caring about him, she got really curious and wanted to know more. They started attending the church.”

Punia said it was the first time that she felt like anybody had seen HER.

Through the church network, she joined one of Mission India’s Adult Literacy Classes.  Job options open up when widows learn how to read, and most importantly, they’re finally hearing a message that they matter.

Punia completed the class and was eventually able to take care of herself and her son.  It’s not a fairy tale ending, says Ackerman, because it’s real life in a difficult situation.

“They’re still poor, by the world’s standards, and certainly by their own standards, but they know they are rich because they know they are the sons and daughters of Christ.”

The difference: Hope.

What now?

(Photo courtesy Mission India)

(Photo courtesy Mission India)

$30 enrolls a student in their 52-week Adult Literacy Class.

Mission India provides:

  • training for volunteer teachers
  • a modest stipend for the teacher
  • 3 Bible-based lesson booklets for each student in a regional Indian language
  • slates and chalk for students
  • a large chalkboard for teachers
  • a kerosene lantern

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