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Editorial: Helping widows

Over three decades of conflict has inflicted large human and economic costs to Afghanistan. However, the human cost is much higher than the latter. There are large numbers of children who are deprived from love of parents. Either their fathers or mothers were killed in the never ending spiral of violence. The war has snatched love and sole breadwinner of many families. The government can deal with the financial disaster by drafting comprehensive recovery plans. But the authorities could not give life back to those who are no more in this world and left vacuum that could not filled. Women have suffered a lot from death of their guardians especially life partner.

The estimated number of total number of widows in Afghanistan is now at a staggering 500,000. According to the statistics provided by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs on the International Widow’s Day, around 70,000 are those who have lost the only bread-earner. As per the statistics, 37 percent of widows are working in offices, and 50 percent are involved in the profession of handicrafts making. Although the data of the ministry seems unreliable from many angles, but still it is an issue. The ministry’s statistics tell a story which is not realistic because the figures say that only 13 percent widows are jobless.  The statistics are inconclusive because the ministry or any other government institute cannot visit insecure areas in the country. There is no lack of such areas.

Covering these areas is important to get a clear picture of the ground realities, and chalk-out a well-thought plans and programs for welfare of the widows. These women are looking desperately for government’s support. They are feeling being abandoned by the central and provincial governments because the officials working on the top positions have confined themselves to the highly barricaded compounds. Many governmental organizations are seen on lockdown in volatile areas. The capital city, Kabul, is no exception because widows find it hard to enter the relevant departments and get the government’s support.

Unfortunately, the government has not made public that what are its priorities to empower women in real sense. To empower women, the relevant ministries should first draft a strategy because without plans there would be no achievement. As a first step, the concerned authorities should encourage and support the young widows to continue their education. Afghanistan needs educated population. Education will also help the widows to get job easily. Special laws should be drafted and approved to ensure that widows have free of cost access to quality health services and their rights are not violated. Violence against women had always remained a hot potato.

It has been also observed that widows do not have property and inheritance rights. The government should guarantee women’s inheritance rights. Gender equality will always remain and important pillar of women’s empowering strategy. Therefore, the gender gaps in earning should be decreased or closed. Reduction of occupational segregation will be vital to empower women.

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