On 23rd June 2018, National Forum For Single Women’s Rights coordinated a postcard campaign on the occasion of International Widows’ Day wherein more than 10,000 single women from West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Punjab sent postcards to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shared their grievances with him.
In modern India, crores of underprivileged women continue to be excluded from mainstream society facing immense discrimination and remain victims of societal neglect. Still restricted to the domestic sphere, single women in India face problems with mobility and do not have adequate access to education which has resulted in most of them being forced into exploitative labour and working minimum wage to support themselves. The campaign was observed by low-income single women comprising of widows, separated, divorced and older unmarried women belonging to state level membership organizations. Speaking about the campaign, National Convener of the forum – Nirmal Chandel said, “The Government should pay attention as single women have shown that not only can they change their own lives for the better but can be important agents of social change.”
The demands and requests of the women varied tremendously. Parli Devi, a resident of Sikar District in Rajasthan, said that she hopes to get a reply to her postcard from the Prime Minister while an older resident of the same district – Prabhati Devi wrote a postcard requesting an increase in minimum social security pension for the vulnerable, and an increase in the food grain allotment under the National Food Security Act. The women were also displeased with the inefficiency of Government welfare programmes. Vasantha, a leader of the Telangana’s single women’s organisation expressed her dissatisfaction with the Government saying, “Government’s schemes of skill training the youth have overlooked the needs of crores of single women in the country, many of whom join the workforce at relatively older ages, and continue to work long into their old age out of necessity.”
Sharing about their attempts to reach the Prime Minister regarding their issues, campaign organizer Parul Chaudhary said, “Unable to meet with the Prime Minister despite several attempts, the single women leadership came up with the idea for this campaign. We all hope that the act of writing to the Prime Minister as citizens will be an empowering experience for single women, and hearing from so many single women will sensitize the Government to our issues.”
International Widows’ Day was established by The Loomba Foundation in 2005 to raise awareness and de-stigmatize widowhood. 23rd June was chosen as the date as it marked the anniversary date of the founder’s mother – Pushpa Wati Loomba’s widowhood. It was formally adopted by the United Nations on 21 December 2010 and is now one of U.N’s ratified day of action to address the ‘poverty and injustice faced by millions of widows and their dependents in many countries’ and is observed worldwide annually.
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All images courtesy: National Forum For Single Women’s Rights