Plight of Widows

Advocating for Widows’ Rights and Support Initiatives

Calls to remember widows are also part of the United States’ largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists observe Widows and Orphans Sunday the first Sunday of November. Widows’ rights and support initiatives are an integral part of these observances, as they emphasize the importance of providing assistance and care to widows in need.

Writing about a past observance, Texas professor and writer Brittany Salmon said there were three ways to be mindful of widows throughout the year. First is to be close to the brokenhearted by taking grieving wives meals or just visiting to console her. There is also practicing a lifestyle of service by serving widows throughout the year, and remembering to pray for them regularly, Salmon wrote.

“(This day) is a great way for us to align our hearts with the call to practice true religion…,” Salmon said. “But let us guard our hearts against relegating this to one Sunday a year, and let it serve as a reminder that our lives should always be poured out for the sake of the orphan and widow.”[1]

The Need to Help

Despite advances in support and awareness, plenty of stories of woe remain. Al Jazeera reported in June of 2020 about stories abounding in Nigeria of widows being forced to drink the water used to wash their husband’s corpse, in the belief it will kill them if they are guilty of causing his death.[2] Many must abide by strict traditional practices, such as cutting their hair short, wearing only dark clothes, and remaining isolated at home for 41 days, while others lose their property claimed by their husband’s relatives.

“Such (stigmatizing) practices have been outlawed in Nigeria since 2015 under the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law and are subject to a 500,000 naira ($1,220) fine or two years in prison,” wrote Femi Amogunla for Al Jazeera. “But so far, only 23 out of Nigeria’s 36 states have formally adopted these laws into their own statutes, and cultural practices continue regardless.”[3]

Such stories are one reason for the continuing focus on widows through the UN’s International Widows’ Day, observed annually since 2010 on June 23. Among the stories the UN publicized last year was that of Rosalia Tuyuc Velasquez of Guatemala. Rosalia hadn’t seen her husband since 1984, when he was captured by the army during what an article by UN Women described as “a 36-year-long armed conflict between the military and guerilla groups that killed at least 200,000 people.”[4]

More than 35 years later, Velasquez was still searching for his remains—not just for her family, she said, but for thousands of indigenous women who were raped or lost their spouses and loved ones during the conflict: “Perhaps we didn’t know what human rights were, but we knew what it meant to live free. When the conflict came, all that freedom, peace, security went away. Not only for my family, but thousands of families.”[5]

Together, we can make a lasting impact and create a brighter future for widows in Asia and Africa. By making a donation, you empower GFA World missionaries to come alongside these women in need, offering them vital resources like sewing machines and farm animals that can help them generate income and sustain their livelihoods. Your generous support also ensures that they receive essential supplies such as blankets and water filters, enabling them to experience Christ’s care and love in a tangible way.

Learn more about the plight of widows

[1] Salmon, Brittany. “Three Ways We Can Serve Widows and Orphans Throughout the Year.” SBC Life. October 30, 2020.
[2] Amogunla, Femi. “ ‘Watching my world collapse’: The plight of Nigeria’s widows.” Al Jazeera. June 23, 2021.
[3] Amogunla, Femi. “ ‘Watching my world collapse’: The plight of Nigeria’s widows.” Al Jazeera. June 23, 2021.
[4] “Explainer: What you should know about widowhood.” UN Women. June 21, 2021.
[5] “Explainer: What you should know about widowhood.” UN Women. June 21, 2021.