Millions of Invisible Widows in Asia Face Poverty, Abuse, Heartache, and Discrimination

This woman’s father spent years paying off her dowry after she got married.

Gospel For Asia reports more than seven years after the United Nations formally called attention to the plight of widows, millions of bereaved women still find themselves subjected to abuse, humiliation, ostracism, and poverty.


A report about the plight of widows called, “Widowhood: The Worst That Can Happen” has been released by GFA. They estimate that 285 million widows live worldwide with more than 115 million living in abject poverty. Cherie Blair, president of the UK-based Loomba Foundation, says 86 million have suffered physical abuse.

Blair calls their plight one of the most important, yet under-reported, human rights issues facing the world. “Much has been made, and rightly so, of gender inequality, but widows have truly been at the bottom of the pile—visible and invisible—for too long,” Blair commented in The Guardian.

Released to build on awareness of the issue raised by the International Widows Day, the in-depth GFA article is the latest in a series of special reports addressing key global issues, intended to encourage action. The Wills Point, Texas-based organization has been actively involved in raising funds for job training, education and other assistance for the millions of widows living in Asia for many years.

Partnering primarily with female missionaries, the specially-trained Sisters of Compassion, GFA has provided healthcare, education, job training, and other assistance to women across the continent. This has helped break the cycle of poverty, low-paying jobs, and societal and cultural discrimination that particularly affects widows. Too often, long-standing cultural traditions blame widows for their husband’s death, which precedes violence, abuse and often a loss of inheritance rights.

“For millions of widows in Asia, life is incredibly difficult,” says Dr. K.P. Yohannan, founder of GFA. “Many are forced into begging or prostitution to survive. There are more than 46 million widows on the streets and in slums. There are stories of thousands of widows committing suicide because they have no hope.”

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SOURCE: Assist News, Gospel For Asia