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Maitri India provides food and shelter to more than 150 elderly abandoned women in Vrindavan

Hema Vaishnavi
20th Mar 2017
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Maitri India’s old age home offers a safe, hygienic, and comfortable home for 150 elderly widows.

A holy city in Uttar Pradesh, Vrindavan is popularly known as the ‘city of widows’. There are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 widows in Vrindavan. Every year, widows move into this city from nearby towns and surrounding areas, after being abandoned by their families. Many elderly women, who come from as far as West Bengal and Assam, suffer from poverty, isolation, and social exclusion.

Maitri India, a Delhi-based NGO, is working towards the empowerment of these widows and the elimination of the discrimination and violence that millions of widows face on a daily basis.

Project Jeevan

According to the 2011 Census report, there are about 56 million widows in India. The plight of widows in the country remains deplorable, given the fact that widows are often deprived of the most basic rights in the country, be it social, political, personal or economic rights. In particular, many elderly widowed women are often denied even basic rights such shelter and food, after being abandoned by their families.

In many Hindu families, widows are often outcast since they considered to bring bad luck upon the family. Conservative Hindus believe that a wife whose husband dies before her is inauspicious, because of her past karmas. These widows, who are shunned by their family, community, and the society, often find themselves begging for food and shelter.

Thousands of such women come to the holy city of widow to spend the rest of their lives in the shanties of Vrindavan. Most of these women, because of social norms, believe that their husband died because of the sins they have committed. Some come to wash their sins.

Maitri India was founded in 2005 by Lt. General Bhopinder Singh and Winnie Singh, with the vision to provide some of the marginalised population with identity, dignity, and respect. In 2010, Maitri India started Project Jeevan, a programme for the abandoned, destitute, and elderly widows in Vrindavan. Since then, Maitri has been helping and engaging with more than 500 widows in providing nutrition, healthcare, education on their rights, and access to Citizenship Rights.

Maitri India runs an old age home which offers a safe, hygienic, and comfortable home for 150 elderly widowed women in two locations of Vrindavan. It provides them essentials for life including daily meals, nutritional supplements, clothing, and healthcare.

The organisation has been helping women obtain their voter ID cards, ration cards, other government certificates, and state government benefits such as widows’ pension. The organisation runs the Maitri Nutrition Programme, where the enrolled widows are provided with free, daily mid-day meals.

Maitri India also provides medical assistance to the widows in the form of health checkups twice a week and specialised checks periodically. It has so far provided 47 widows with cataract surgeries and 72 women have been provided with prescription glasses. Maitri has also facilitated cancer treatment for three widows from a hospital in Agra including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and medications.

Color the Whites

A crowdfunding campaign is being run to raise funds for providing additional facilities to the widows of Vrindavan. The funds will go into providing an additional 100 widows with meals and health supplements and enabling access to general and multi-specialty healthcare. In addition, the project will help increase their socio-economic independence by facilitating access to citizenship rights and opportunities for vocational training, skill enhancement, and employment.

The organisation, with the additional funds, soon hopes to start a sewing unit where they will learn how to stitch a simple cloth bags, creating an employment opportunity for them.

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