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International Widow Day


June 23rd is celebrated as International Widow Day, which was initiated by Ms. Cherie Blair in the year 2004. Since its commemoration this day has been celebrated by Women for Human Rights (hereafter referred to as WHR), in Nepal with different programs. This year it was celebrated in the open space of Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu where elderly single women from different districts were felicitated. Ms. Sahana Pradhan, Former Foreign Minister, Ms. Chitra Lekha Yadav, Former deputy speaker, were present in the program and they highlighted the importance of widow’s rights and applauded male’s participation in the program. Besides, Ms. Lily Thapa, founder of WHR and Ms. Chandrika Bhattrai, Chairperson, WHR highlighted the current situation of widows in Nepal. Along with felicitation of aged single women, stationery materials were also provided to the children of women who lost their husbands in a decade long conflict in Nepal.

But the problem of widows do not come to end from these celebrations, still a lot is to be done in this issue. In Nepal widows are not only looked down upon but are also treated as inauspicious. They are not allowed to wear colorful dresses, are prohibited to participate in auspicious occasions such as wedding ceremonies, religious festivals etc. Widow marriage is not accepted throughout the country but if the wife dies, husband can marry within 45 days, which clearly defines the prevalence of male domination in the Nepalese social structure. Likewise, the child marriage and mismatched marriage has further escalated the problem and has resulted in a very harsh life of widows. Moreover they are also sexually abused by their in-laws but cannot raise her voice due to fear of the society. Till 2002 women were not able to inherit their husband’s property but after the 11th amendment of the Civil Code, the property rights of women was recognized and widows were also given share in husbands property. But the women are still deprived of getting their share because the in-laws make illegal claim in the property and women being uneducated does not have any knowledge of her rights and is left in the streets with her children.

According to the survey of WHR, 40% widows are below or of 20 years of age, 67% are of 20-35 age group with 3-4 children, 29% are illiterate and only 2% have attained higher education where as 10% are internally displaced due to armed conflict. The above mentioned data clearly shows that majority of the widows are of young age but in Nepal widow allowance is given to those widows who are of 60 plus; which depicts the lethargic attitude of government towards widows. The increased number of young widows is one of the results of a decade long armed conflict and with no education and skills their livelihood is at stake. They are the most vulnerable group and can easily be the prey of human traffickers.

The problems associated with a widow are immense and needs to be addressed promptly. To address their issues every individual is to be sensitized and policy level implementation is also necessary. The currently being drafted constitution of Nepal should also incorporate the issues associated with widows and the rights of widows be ensured so that they can neither be manipulated nor suppressed. And moreover every country should recognize the rights of widows and recognize them as an asset of every nation.



JaniceW's picture


Anjana, Namaskar. It is fascinating to me to read that these attitudes still prevail. I grew up with the story of my grandmother who was betrothed to a boy while she was in utero. That is, her mother was still pregnant with her and she was not yet born. Neither was the boy. The boy died in childbirth and so my grandmother was declared a widow. Because of the stigma attached to widows and as was the custom at that time in China, she was declared un-marriageable. Marriage finally came when my grandfather became widowed and they were matched as two widows, he being much older than her.

I agree that every country should recognize the rights of widows and recognize them as an asset of every nation. Thank you for bringing this to our attention and it adds another topic of discussion for your meeting. Hardik Subhakamana,

lanjana's picture

Hi Janice Yes these practices

Hi Janice

Yes these practices still prevail and it is difficult take them out from these deep rooted values. Due to armed conflict the number of widows have increased tremendously and are deprived of exercising rights. The widows in village areas have been difficult life. Thank you for bringing the story of your granparents, such cases can still be found in Nepal but in Nepal even the widower does not marry a widow.
Thank you and how do you know nepali words ?


Maria de Chirikof's picture

Rights of Widows

It is strange since I thought this had changed in that 2002 Civil Code Amendment where woman got to keep their homes and such. I guess things wont change until we can show that all woman are real people and that does not change depending on if she is married or a parent or whatever her age is. I wonder how many others heard about that one civil code and then, like me, never followed up on it to see how it was implemented and thought instead 'job well done'.

It is why I think this place will have a real impact since we get to hear from the woman living in these places and how ideas are there but need work getting them to work like they should. Thanks for posting this!


lanjana's picture

Yes Maria, it still has not

Yes Maria, it still has not changed because though it has been changed at policy level, with no grassroots level awareness there still are women who are deprived of their rights and these women sum up to a larger number whether we accept it or not. And the case is not only in remote places but in city areas as well. Besides the social discrimination and stigma associated with widows is immense and they themselves stay apart from the auspicious functions if any thing bad happens they are blamed so they prefer staying aloof.Until and unless grassroots awareness is not carried out it will be difficult to address these issues.

Thank you


olutosin's picture



This is mine, my father died on May 9, 1974, I was about 4 years old, in my village, it is wives that are believed to murder their husbands, I do not see my father's grave till a day b4 my wedding on November 24, 2001 when my would be husband decided to follow me to know my father's house, my mother was driven out and she singlehandedly raised us all. We are all 3 girls hated by all, but all the 3 of us are graduates in a village where girls are inconsequential.

Love You All as we continue to strenthen one another.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


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