Single women, their vulnerabilities & the need for a national policy to ensure their rights
New Delhi: The life of widows in several countries has been and continues to be one of struggle and deprivation. In our society, following the death of their husband, women continue to suffer violation of even their basic human rights. International Widows’ Day, observed annually around the globe on June 23, is an occasion to draw attention to the voices of widows and to galvanize the unique support that they need, along with other single women.
As ActionAid Association works towards facilitating rights and dignity for widows, it continues to highlight the fact that almost all institutional and governance initiatives that are drafted are curtailed to the subset of ‘Widows’ only, thereby leaving a large section of other “single” women facing similar vulnerabilities to fend for themselves. In the general parlance, the term ‘Single Women’ refers to widows in India, yet the numbers tell a different story, which according to the national Census have gone up from 51.2 million single women in 2001 to 71.4 million in 2011.
It needs to be remembered that single women are not a homogenous category. Beginning with the local diversities in which they are located, single women are found in several vulnerable contexts in our society, and belong to different categories – widows, unmarried, separated, divorced, abandoned and deserted. And because of this diversity, the issues they are burdened with are diverse too. The stigma, derision, and disrespect, however, stay common across the spectrum.
ActionAid Association has been actively working towards expanding the definitional focus of single women from just widows to other “single” women too needing policy attention. Recently, ActionAid Association has developed a Draft National Policy for Single Women, published under the title, Single, But Not Alone. This document advocates for a comprehensive policy to deal with the issues of single women and their specific needs. It lays out an agenda for protecting and promoting the rights of single women through interventions to address the stigma, discrimination and violence faced by them. It also talks about the need to ensure their access to basic services, including education and health, livelihoods, social security, property and other resources to enable their socio-economic and political empowerment.
“ActionAid Association has been working with single women for over two decades now, working together to build collectives of single women and enabling them to claim their rights and entitlements. Taking forward its efforts, we propose to now take the Draft National Policy for Single Women to the Union and State Governments and district administrations,” shares Sushila Prajapati, Program Manager, Women and Property Rights, ActionAid Association. Besides running this policy campaign on the ground, on the occasion of International Widows Day, ActionAid Association is organizing a Tweetathon titled ‘#SingleButNotAlone’, all with an aim of bringing to the fore voices of single women from the grassroots, highlighting their demands and taking those to the policy-makers.
ActionAid Association has been working with single women for over two decades now, working together to build collectives of single women and enabling them to claim their rights and entitlements.