Mumbai, Mar 22 (IBNS) Lord Raj Loomba, member of the British House of Lords and founder-chairman of NGO Loomba Foundation, has called upon the Indian government to set up Widows Help Centres through Panchayats.
At a Charity Dinner hosted by the Loomba Foundation to raise funds for improving the lot of widows and their children in Mumbai, Lord Raj Loomba CBE, along with Cherie Blair, Executive President of the Loomba Foundation, called upon the government of India to set up Widows Help Centres, "at least one in each Panchayat".
"In my experience, widows in rural India are the hardest hit. I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to call upon the Government of India to set up "Widows Help Centres" through the Ministry of Panchayati Raj all across the country," said Lord Loomba.
"At present, widows who are poor and uneducated do not know who to turn to when they are ill-treated by their families or communities," said Blair, executive president of the Foundation who was also present at the function.
"In case they are abused physically, psychologically, raped, or robbed of their possessions, wealth and inheritance they should be able to reach out for support and help to a bona fide local authority that has the powers to help them and provide justice," she said.
"The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has already created the concept of Gram Sabhas in the Panchayats. In fact, I would urge the government to set up Widows Help centres under the aegis of Gram Sabhas all over the country. This would indeed help millions of impoverished widows in our country," Lord Loomba made an earnest plea to the Government of India.
The chief guest at the dinner, Union Minsiter of Law and Justice, Ashwini Kumar, who is an Oxford alumnus himself, acknowledged the request of Loomba Foundation and promised in his speech that he would strongly recommend the Foundation's request for setting up Widow Help Centres to the government of India and will definitely provide the legal framework to activate these centres.
Admitted the Minister, "The government of India has many schemes for women in this country, some of them also pertain to widows, but I'm afraid they're not enough."
Indeed, there is a pension scheme for widows that pays Rs 600 per month.
The Union Government also has Swadhar Scheme that purports to address the specific vulnerability of each of group of women in difficult circumstances through a Home-based holistic and integrated approach.
This scheme - aimed at widows along with other destitute class of women is to provide primary need of shelter, food, clothing and care to the marginalized women/girls living in difficult circumstances who are without any social and economic support.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has also been doing its best to promote economic empowerment of women through policies and programmes cutting across sectors.
Loomba Foundation has been undertaking a series of initiatives to improve the lot of widows in India.
Addressing media persons in Mumbai, Lord Loomba said, "As you're perhaps aware, widows in India live in pathetic conditions. Widowhood in this country bring in an enormous amount of suffering - mental, economical and emotional - not to even mention the verbal insults and humiliating taunts that they have to live with each day.
"Through our relentless efforts, we convinced the United Nations to declare June 23 as International Widows Day."
Blair said, "Not only India, the plight of widows in several developing nations shame us. The Loomba Foundation has, indeed, made exemplary efforts to highlight the plight of widows to the world.
"I firmly believe we need to empower widows to provide them a sustainable livelihood that will ultimately offer them security, emotional and economical!"
Indeed there are 42 million widows in India and over 100 million children.
The Loomba Foundation, a UN accredited NGO, has to date educated over 6500 children of poor widows and supported over 27,000 of their family members.
Currently, the Foundation is educating over 2,500 children of poor widows in 16 states in India, who receive a monthly scholarship of Rs.500, guaranteed for a period of five years.
In November 2012, The Loomba Foundation signed a three year partnership agreement with UN Women., the United Nations body for gender equality and empowerment of women, to work together on three projects in India, Malawi and Guatemala to empower widows in those countries.
The Foundation has recently launched a new projected to empower 10,000 impoverished widows in India, who will each receive a sewing machine and training to make garments.
Through this project, the unfortunate widows will become self reliant, be able to educate their children and lead a life of dignity.
Indeed, widows in rural India are the silent victims of the worst kind who have no recourse to seek any justice or fair play. "Widows Help Centres in the Panchayats are truly the need of the hour," Lord Loomba said.
The Loomba Foundation was established in the UK by Raj and Veena Loomba by a charitable Trust Deed on 26 June 1997 and has sister charities registered in India and the USA.
It has been set up to promote the fundamental freedoms and Human Rights of widows.
The Foundation aims to educate the children of poor widows throughout India and empower widows around the world.