International Widows’ Day: Older women in Bangladesh

Shegufta Sharmin – Help Age International – Wednesday, 25 June 2014 (originally published 24 Jun)

Bangledesh widow
Image: HelpAge International

Today, International Widows’ Day is observed to address the poverty and injustice faced by widows and their children around the world. 

When I think of the hardships that widows, in particular older widows face, I am instantly reminded of a conference I attended on ageing and women in Kolkata, India in last April. Ms Aarati Saxena of Delhi University raised an interesting point about older women living in Vrindavan and Varanasi, renowned sacred places in India.

Women mostly from West Bengal were once sent to such places when widowed. Now it seems unacceptable for a woman to have to give up everything because they’ve lost their husband. Ms Aarati asked me if this was the same in Bangladesh since once both Bengals shared common culture before partition of Indian sub-continent. Suddenly this question struck me and I started to think about older widows in my home country . . .

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