Let’s make India an accepting place for single women and widows to live in
I am a 26 year-old nomad traveller, entrepreneur, social worker, youth activist and a student from India. Specifically, I am the co-founder of “Sharing Opportunities & Code for Neurons”. I am also a global Community Extended Shaper and a Global Youth Ambassador at “TheirWorld”.
I am working towards SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and the story that I am going to share is something which I have grown up with, and it's very close to my heart, as it has everything to do with my Mother.
We often talk about issues that women in general have to face, but have rarely spent any time thinking about the wellbeing of widows in our society. In India alone, there are more than 42 million widows, out of which 60 percent lives in very miserable conditions.
I come from a lower middle-class Indian family and in my life I have faced many hardships. My father did not live long enough to see me become who I am today. He passed away when I was four, leaving behind a wife, two sons and lots of debts. Due to the outstanding debts we had, from a very early age I was sadly used to hear words like “nilami”, which means “auction”, and “jhapti”, which means “confiscation”. Therefore, I worked hard for academic success throughout school and I wanted to become an engineer, but had to shift to commerce due to the lack of money. Many said that with a commerce degree I wouldn’t be able to get a job, but I wanted to give it a try anyways. I knew I was very determined in wanting to overcome poverty. I moved to Pune in 2012 with just 1.000 rupees in my pocket (almost 15 US dollars). I did not have a place to stay and did not know where to apply for a job. However, one month and many interviews later, a company hired me. Our condition started improving and in 2014 I was able to move my mother to Pune to be with me.
I have gone through so many challenging situations that Widows and their children have to face everyday, often feeling frustrated and helpless. I couldn’t find any information about any support group that could help widows; let alone get access to one. It was then that I made it my mission to fill in the gap and start “Mitti Ke Rang”.
I founded “Mitti Ke Rang” (MKR) in 2014, to address gender equality and widows empowerment, to provide women and widows with resources and support. I saw all the challenges that widows and their children have to go through. So, I have envisioned a world where all single women and widows are accepted by their families and in a society where they will be free to rebuild their own lives.
Right now, our society does not have the openness to accept widows as strong women who can give their contribution. Just because my mother is a widow, she is not allowed to take part in prayers, rituals, wedding ceremonies, or even apply henna. After my father passed away, my mother didn’t know what to do. She was not aware of her rights. In a fraction of a second everything changed, and she was completely unprepared for it. Raising two children with no financial stability was not an easy task. This was my trigger to start working towards widows empowerment, because I do not want anyone else to feel that helpless.
So this is why I so badly want to bring a change in society when it comes to widows and single women, and so dedicatedly work towards SDG 5 and SDG 10. And I strongly believe I will achieve this goal, sooner or later, and I will give widows their rights and the dignity that they deserve.
Along with MKR, I founded the social network startup "Connecting 196 Countries": a forum that seeks to connect young change-makers around the world, to bring ideas forward and share the best practices that will foster development in their communities.
I also am a “solo traveller”. In fact, I really enjoy travelling as a backpacker, as it gives me a different and open minded view of the world. I traveled across 25 states in India. Personally, travelling gives me the opportunity to learn more about myself, my limits and how to adapt myself to every situation. Professionally, it gives me the chance to meet and interact with other changemakers like me, who end up wanting to work at the NGO I founded.
This initiative of working towards widows’ empowerment is so big, that any amount of money can help. So, if I were to be given the prize money, I would be able to open more helpline centres for widows, so that they could get in contact with us by calling directly and we could support them by connecting them with specialized centres where they could be able to seek medical help, police intervention, counseling and legal help.
Therefore, I believe the prize money would definitely play a very big role, as it would take us a step closer to making this world a better place for widows to live in.
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV
Photo credit: mittikerang.org