Widows in Vrindavan want to come out of traditional mindsets: survey
The widows in Braj, a region around Vrindavan town in Uttar Pradesh that provides shelter to probably the largest number of widows in the country, are happier there than in their homes in villages, and most of them have no intention of returning. They also seem to be veering away from traditional beliefs on how widows should live and what they wear and eat.
This is what a study, titled ‘Dimensions of Deprivation: Study on the Poverty Levels of Widows of Vrindavan,' released here on Monday, says.
The study suggests that the Braj widows do not believe in tonsuring, and some of the younger ones seem open to the idea of remarriage, though they do not say it openly.
“They are rebuilding their lives and find less discrimination because of their widowhood. Most are able to enter temples, and some even attend ceremonies. In fact, one of them used the Internet and googled her way to an ashram here,” says the report.
Commissioned by the Guild of Services, the study sent questionnaires to 500 widows in the region. Seventy-eight per cent of them, the young as well as the old, are afraid of physical and sexual harassment, and 63 per cent of not attaining salvation (moksha). They also fear falling sick, not being cremated with proper rites, of being homeless and hungry.
Although they earn money from multiple sources — bhajans, ashrams, charity, pension, domestic-work, tailoring and candle making — it does not add up to much. Most of their money is spent on food, medicines, rent, clothes, travel and puja. A majority of them, (83 per cent), earn between Rs. 200 and Rs. 1,000 a month; 7 per cent less than Rs. 200 a month and 10 per cent more than Rs. 1,000 a month.
They receive little or no financial support from their families. A small percentage did, however, get emotional support.
While food is not a problem, finding shelter is an area of concern, with approximately a third of them living in the open — on the streets, ghats, railway stations and bus stops, and having to fend for themselves. More than half of them live in rented rooms and 16 per cent in ashrams.
Sanitation is another area of concern, the survey points out.
Recommending convergence of several schemes meant for widows and destitute women, the report stresses need for the government to move from the dole-giving welfare approach to garnering the potential of this valuable human resource of 40 million widows who could be imparted education and enrolled into skill-development courses for making them economically independent.
These women can be trained for healthcare services, employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, covered under the health insurance scheme and even provided social security in a respectable manner, the report says.