Kenya (MNN) — Today is International Widows Day, underscoring the plight of widows worldwide.
There are an estimated 258 million widows globally, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty. Roughly eight million widows call Kenya “home.”
“Many times, when you think of a widow, you think of someone [old,] bent over, and very wrinkly. But that’s not the case in Kenya. Many of our widows are young,” Kenya Hope’s Joy Mueller says.
“My youngest widow is 22 years old, and she’s looking at a life of never being married. In this culture, women are not allowed to remarry after they [lose] their husband, so it’s a lonely journey.”
Men often take several wives in rural Kenya. “It is a polygamous culture; of course, each wife is younger than the previous one,” Mueller explains.
“When the husband dies, this doesn’t impact one woman. It can impact up to four women and 20 to 30 children that now are left homeless.”
When the man dies, his family takes over the estate, and each wife is left to fend for herself and her children. “They take everything [else] – her house, her land, livestock – and it puts these women in a desperate, desperate plight,” Mueller says.
The women “have no income, 98 percent of them have no education [so] they don’t know how to read or write, and they’re at a complete loss.”
Hope for Kenya’s widows
Kenya Hope offers a two-year path to safety through its Widow’s Might program. More about that here. Once a sponsor covers program costs, Kenya Hope “immediately starts providing food assistance each month [and] we start training the widow in a job skill,” Mueller says.
“We’re also doing Chronological Bible training with them; each woman is given an audio Bible to start hearing God’s Word for herself.”
Widows gain a new sense of independence when they complete the program and the tools needed to succeed. “Anytime a widow completes a skill, such as breadmaking, we give her everything she needs [to start a] business of her own,” Mueller says.
“They get a lot of dignity and pride from the fact that they can now support themselves and their family, and they’re not destitute.”
Today on International Widows’ Day, you can give a woman and her children hope for the future. Sponsor a widow through Kenya Hope here.
“We are very intentional about what we’re teaching, and that there’s a timeline because we don’t want them to think this is a handout, it’s a hand up. It’s giving them the skill to provide for themselves,” Mueller says.
In the header image, widows in Nairobi learn how to support themselves through sewing. Photo courtesy of Kenya Hope.