They are sometimes called “white widows.”
Historically as part of cultural tradition, they were expected to burn themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre. Now, they are more often stripped of all their possessions, thrust out of the societal caste system and wear white clothing as a symbol of their widowhood. Most are forced to lives of poverty, where begging or prostitution are their primary means of survival.
Administered by Rotary International, the Indian Widow Project has established a micro loan program to provide these white widows with an alternative and with hope.
I developed the Indian Widow Project in 2010 with my local North Kansas City Rotary Club in partnership with the Calcutta India Uptown Rotary Club. With minimal marketing as a grassroots movement, we have raised close to $25,000.00 for micro loans that have been distributed with a 100% repayment rate. The changes in these women’s lives and those of their children cannot be measured.
The Indian Widow Project is the primary recipient of proceeds from Giving River Images. You can also donate directly to the Indian Widow Project by sponsoring any of the micro businesses below. If you want to see more of the bright colors of India, check out the Wanderings album where few more of my pictures are available.
Wanna Donate? Every Dollar Counts
Micro Business Information
Apple Shell Jewelry Making – Family Business
It is a simple process with a big return. A local fruit similar to an apple has a hard shell. With simple drilling tools, small beads can be drilled out and strung to create necklaces and bracelets. The remainder of the shell is artistically painted and sold at market. The fruit itself is eaten by the family.
Making use of natural resources right off the ground to create biodegradable and fully functional plates. The idea is doing so well, that some Western companies are looking at how to mass market it as part of eco-friendly offerings. For the widows, it can sustain their entire community with seasonal income.
Mushroom Cultivation – Family Business
Because fresh foods are the norm of everyday cooking in India, the mushroom gardeners are never short of customers. Mushrooms are grown in darkened sheds, hanging in plastic bags and buried in wet straw. When the mushrooms are ready to be harvested, they grow outside of the plastic bag. The grower easily can cut off the desired amount while the rest of the harvest stays intact.
Raising Farm Animals – Family and Village Businesses
Cows, chickens, ducks and goats are staples in rural India. It has become a trend to give loans to several women in the same village, each purchasing a different animal or business. They often work in co-ops together, collectively taking their products to larger nearby communities to sell.
Sari and Clothing Shop – Family Business
A sewing machine can make the financial difference to a family who lives the Calcutta suburbs. Skilled seamstresses can make anything from saris, men’s clothing and textiles for the home. They consider it most fortunate if they can land an account sewing school uniforms for nearby students.
Tea, Puffed Rice or Incense Shop – Family Business
For many women, just a small shop or cart on the side of the road is just the right size for their business. Morning commuters stop to have a cup of tea and a small handful of puffed rice. Incense is a very important part of worship in Hinduism, so there is always a demand for the scented sticks.
All donations to the Indian Widow Project are made through Rotary International.
Rotary International is an officially recognized nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.