Why I gave a widow a sewing machine


Today, June 23rd is designated by the United Nations as International Widows Day. As a widow and writer I did a little research to see why we need an international day dedicated to widows. What I learned was heartbreaking.

When I was widowed I didn’t want or need a sewing machine. I faced the emotional trauma of losing the man I loved and figuring out a new plan for my life. Despite losing an amazing husband a great marriage, a few friends and the dreams we had together, I know that I am very fortunate and blessed.

Around the world some widows lose their homes, their property, their rights to their inheritance, and are shunned and targeted by their communities. Globally over a billion people are impacted by the loss of a husband. This includes the 259 million widows, 585 million children and other dependent family members.

Many live in poverty, are malnourished, exposed to disease and deprivation. Widowed women are targeted for murder, rape, prostitution and robbery. Due to social stigmas they sometimes suffer physical abuse, eviction and social isolation. Children of widows are subject to illiteracy, homelessness and human trafficking.

This is why we need an International Widow’s Day.

Even in developed countries such as the United States, numerous widows lose their primary breadwinner and live in poverty because of unemployment or low wage jobs. Affordable health care is an issue and many are left with tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills from their spouse’s illness.

A terminal illness and funeral expenses can financially devastate poor and middle-class families. A routine surgery can cost more than twice the annual salary of a minimum wage worker. That doesn’t allow for complications or doctor’s visits before or after the surgery or ongoing treatments for illness.

The Loomba Foundation, a UN accredited global NGO, promotes the welfare and economic empowerment of disadvantaged widows and the education of their children. They also promote the fundamental freedoms and human rights of widows and their children around the world through advocacy.

So why the sewing machine?

For the price of a good bottle of wine I could empower a widow by giving her a sewing machine and the training to make clothes. It’s a business that will allow her to provide for her family. It’s not just a sewing machine. It’s a way out of poverty. That makes me feel better than a good bottle of wine can.

If giving a widow a sewing machine isn’t your cup of tea I get it. We can each decide how to allocate our time and treasures and we all have causes we donate to and issues we support. If you’d rather do something close to home on in your own community just look around.

There are 13.7 million widowed people in the United States. Many of them are struggling with depression, isolation or loneliness as they navigate a new future. Maybe it’s your mother, your aunt, the pianist at your church or your son’s teacher. Just reach out with a hug, a hand, a “how can I help?”

International Widow’s Day is not something to celebrate. It’s a day to observe. Maybe someone you love needs a sewing machine.


One Response to “Why I gave a widow a sewing machine”

  1. Inspiring. Thank you for the reminder and push. We can all help someone out.

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