The abandoned widows of India

Hundreds of widows who have been abandoned by their families live in the shelter, or ashram, run by the NGO Sulabh International.

In India, when a man dies, traditionally his widow is expected to renounce all earthly pleasures, such as wearing colourful clothes or looking attractive, and she can face severe social discrimination.

Sulabh International, a non-profit organisation has been working towards improving the conditions of 1,780-odd widows living in government shelters at Vrindavan by providing education, health care , vocational training and stipends.

Issues surrounding the treatment of women are receiving special attention on March 8, which marks International Women's Day.

— Photos and Text by Agencies

A widow poses for a picture inside her room at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
A widow poses for a picture inside her room at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
Widows attend a class at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
Widows attend a class at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
Widows attend a class at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
Widows attend a class at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
An elderly Indian widow poses as she walks out of the Mahila Ashram, a shelter home for widows in Vrindavan some 150 kms south-east of New Delhi on March 7, 2013 on the eve of International Women's Day. ? AFP Photo
An elderly Indian widow poses as she walks out of the Mahila Ashram, a shelter home for widows in Vrindavan some 150 kms south-east of New Delhi on March 7, 2013 on the eve of International Women's Day. ? AFP Photo
A widow carries a bucket as she walks towards a hand pump to fetch drinking water at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
A widow carries a bucket as she walks towards a hand pump to fetch drinking water at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ? Reuters Photo
Widows eat inside their room at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013.  ? Reuters Photo
Widows eat inside their room at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow prepares her bed at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow prepares her bed at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
Elderly Indian widows attend a reading and writing class at the Mahila Ashram, a shelter home for widows in Vrindavan some 150 kms south-east of New Delhi on March 7, 2013 on the eve of International Women's Day. ? AFP Photo
Elderly Indian widows attend a reading and writing class at the Mahila Ashram, a shelter home for widows in Vrindavan some 150 kms south-east of New Delhi on March 7, 2013 on the eve of International Women's Day. ? AFP Photo
Widows gather to sing religious songs at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
Widows gather to sing religious songs at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
Widows with their sewing machines attend a training class at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
Widows with their sewing machines attend a training class at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow poses at the entrance of a staircase at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow poses at the entrance of a staircase at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow walks through a street outside the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow walks through a street outside the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow walks through a street outside the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo
A widow walks through a street outside the Meera Sahavagini ashram in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 6, 2013. ? Reuters Photo

Comments (14) (Closed)


Atikh Rashid
Mar 10, 2013 08:14am
BTW, photos are excellent
Atikh Rashid
Mar 10, 2013 08:13am
sorry. but the story seems to be a foreigners perception about India and the issue. A little more study is always useful.
Tamilselvan
Mar 08, 2013 01:52pm
Thanks for bringing this article by Dawn. Old people are finding it more difficult to get by and live with dignity. Society must take care of the elders who have sacrificed for them and cared for the, The concept of joint family was good but now families are broken apart and older generations are finding it difficult to survive. Hats off to Sulabh International for their work
MDMS
Mar 08, 2013 12:37pm
They have shelter, food, education, security, employment, society of those in similar misfortune, entertainment etc.... Where are my rights in Pakistan???????????
Viswanath
Mar 09, 2013 01:37am
Very good photos - but I must disagree with the caption. They are being taken care of - they are being educated, and taught life skills for survival. They are anything but abandoned.
Ford
Mar 09, 2013 02:27am
Really Dawn? On woman's day you had to cross border to come up with an issue? Couldn't find anything in Pakistan?
Zkage
Mar 09, 2013 03:55am
Very sad pictures, to be left alone at a shelter without family to take care of you.
blue
Mar 09, 2013 06:09pm
I BEG to differ from Dawn point of u, Among them some might be misfortune who doesn'tt have any shelter . Most of them are volunteers .. These elderly women want to spend their remaining life time in God's complentation , And if they are willfully there to serve god , there is nothing wrong in it . Are they ? Infact Hindu way of life designed in that way , first 25 yrs education ( Brahmachary) 25yrs to -50 yrs House holder life( grihastha) then comes vanaprastha , and followed by sanyasa( monks, who renounces) these rules apply same to both male and female,
Zak
Mar 09, 2013 06:53pm
Why? Don't like to look into the mirror. See india papers, they are full of hate towards Pakistan. This is just a social issue news.
Shankar
Mar 09, 2013 09:40pm
The government of Tamilnadu in South India gives Rs 1000/- per month to elderly widows without male children. An excellent move!
Mauren
Mar 09, 2013 11:41pm
India is not a land of milk and honey, we get it. But, why does Dawn have these repeated sad stories about India? Are you trying to convince yourself and your readers that life in Pakistan is better?
Karim Lala
Mar 10, 2013 12:23am
I disagree with you Viswanath, disowning by your own family is the greatest sin and leaving them at the holy place to fend for themselves, I don't know how the family members can be happy and live with their consciousness.
ameeth sethi
Mar 10, 2013 01:55am
since i worked as a doctor at one of such places in vrindavan. The facilities they receive there are good, like 2000 INR, 5/10 kg rice/ wheat, 10 ltrs kerosene,a doctor visiting morning etc..... but yes they constantly feel the pain of separation from there loved once. but overall safe and secure in ashrams in vrindavan.
Riase M.
Mar 10, 2013 05:24am
Thank God for small mercies. At least they have not been burnt alive as their religion and culture requires.