Kenya (MNN) — Today is International Widows’ Day, marked each year on June 23rd by the United Nations. It calls attention to the world’s 258 million widows in need; nearly one in 10 live in extreme poverty.
Kenya Hope’s Joy Mueller says the Bible makes frequent mention of this vulnerable population.
“James 1:27 comes to mind, and that says, ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.’ These women are oppressed and afflicted,” Mueller says.
Women are treated as second-rate citizens in many countries, leaving them with little – if any – education, and few options outside of marriage. Widows fall to an even lower social tier.
“From my experience working with widows in rural Kenya, I would say 98% of them are uneducated and illiterate. The biggest contributor to their poverty is [the] polygamous society, meaning that their husbands can take more than one wife,” Mueller says.
Often when men die, they leave multiple wives and children with no source of income. Plus, another common Kenyan custom gives the husband’s family rights over everything the couple owned, Mueller adds.
“One of our widows, who was more educated, she had a five-bedroom home, and they had two cars. But when her husband died, they (her husband’s family) came in and took everything.”
Through a two-year training program called “Widow’s Might,” Kenya Hope offers job skills and the hope of Christ. Upon graduating from the program, women receive tools to start their own small businesses. Sewing is a commonly-chosen trade, as is baking a popular bread known as chapatti.
“When the end of the two years come, we don’t just send them out and say ‘good luck.’ We make sure they are equipped to be able to support their families and earning income,” Mueller says.
Kenya Hope offers agricultural assistance to widows in extremely remote communities. “We give those women five female goats, and that is like a huge influx into their bank account,” Mueller says.
“A female goat can produce up to three kids a year, so their herd is going to multiply quickly. They’re able to take care of their property and their little farm,” she continues.
“Because of those goats, they are sending their kids to school [and] paying school fees.”
Most importantly, pray. “Pray for those widows around the world. It’s not just in Africa that widows are oppressed like this,” Mueller says.
“Sponsor a widow. It’s just $65 a month for two years. With assurance, you can know that you are empowering and impacting a widow’s life in Kenya.”
Header and story images courtesy of Kenya Hope.