Widows in India face poverty, isolation and fear, the Bible Society of India has claimed, as it highlighted their plight, to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March.
The Hope Givers’ programme, run by the Bible Society of India, aims to help tens of thousands of widows in India each year to lift themselves out of poverty and isolation after they lose their husbands.
Dr Leelavathi Manasseh, a director at the Bible Society, who started the programme in 2008, said, ‘If you are widowed, it is because you did something wrong in your previous life: that is the view in this predominantly Hindu culture.
‘So, whether a widow is from a rich or poor background, she faces blame, mistreatment and rejection by her family. Many are kicked out of their homes and left to fend for themselves and their children, leaving them in a desperate situation’.
She said the programme runs workshops, to equip women with income-generating skills like juice-making and candle-making, provides counselling, and helps the women get the government support to which they are entitled.
It also provides Scriptures and runs Bible study groups to help them understand their worth and purpose in God’s eyes.
Dr Manasseh added: ‘We help the widows in whatever way they need — sometimes it’s a meal, sometimes it’s just someone to talk to.
‘When they ask, “Why are you helping me?” we tell them about Jesus and his great love for widows, children and other vulnerable people. This is a surprising message for them, and they want to know more. They are very open to the gospel’.