ATLANTA, Georgia — COVID-19 has plagued the world for over a year now. However, developing countries have suffered the most. The strife of lower-class women who have lost their husbands to COVID-19 is often overlooked. Apart from dealing with the grief of losing their partner, they now have to support themselves, and maybe even a family. This epidemic has coined yet another pandemic term: the “COVID-19 widow.”
Challenges Faced by COVID-19 Widows
In many developing countries, the male is the head of the household and is often the primary source of income. When a woman’s husband dies, widows are often evicted. This is because women are only allowed legal or socially recognized rights through their husbands in many countries, and when they lose their husbands due to COVID-19, many end up homeless. In fact, Patricia Chaves, head of women’s rights charity Espaco Feminista, says that women are often approached to sell their land at their husbands’ funerals.
The loss of their husband also means loss of family support for the widow. For example, due to hard times during quarantine, the widow’s in-laws may kick her out. Some families no longer consider the COVID-19 widow to be family anymore and do not want to bear the extra burden of keeping her in the household.
The culture of self-isolation after becoming a widow is strong in many developing countries. Some cultures shame women for becoming widows, and the widow may even be shunned by their community. In Afghanistan, widowed women became outcasts, so they made their own colony just outside of the nation’s capital. They make mud-huts for themselves, and there they isolated themselves from mainstream life.
These problems have led women to take extreme measures to support their families. Many are forced into marriage with other family members in order to gain financial security. Widowed women are also more vulnerable to catching the virus because they are forced to work in the informal sector to support their families, and this forces them to put themselves at risk of exposure. Even if COVID-19 widows do manage to find work, chances are that it is a job that pays very little, which forces her and her family to self-isolate in poor housing conditions.
Fortunately, this problem has been recognized. Many non-profit organizations have made efforts to help the COVID-19 widows.
GFA World is an organization that brings relief to thousands of widows in developing countries. The organization provides widows with essential items such as food and water, but also with sewing kits and vocational training to help them earn an income. Bishop Daniel Punnose states that GFA World makes an effort to feel comfort, encouragement, and love from their community.
Many organizations are looking to improve women’s mental health as well. Stand In the Gap Ministries, a faith-based organization, advocates for local churches to provide COVID widows with support. The organization has created regular social gatherings for widows, which gives these women an opportunity to share experiences and give advice.
The grief of a widow has been greatly intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, organizations like GFA World and Stand In The Gap Ministries are making major efforts every day to provide COVID-19 widows with proper care and comfort. Every day, these organizations are making an impact on more and more women and families.
– Saanvi Mevada