New Delhi : The National Commission for Women (NCW) has recommended that young widows living in Swadhar Homes be imparted trainings in development of non-traditional skills and self defence for their better socio-economic rehabilitation.
In a report filed in the Supreme Court, the NCW said non-traditional training such as driving, computer training and micro-entrepreneurship, rather than stereotypical activities like tailoring and beauty culture, will go a long way in rehabilitating the widows, particularly the young ones.
It recommended customized vocational training schemes, which should be converged with Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.
According to the report, more than 50 per cent of the women surveyed were widowed before the age of 45 while 40 percent were above 45. Odisha had the maximum number of young widows.
Notably, 57 percent of women surveyed were employed before coming to shelter homes and 70 percent of them did not receive any widow pension. It said 24 percent of them had pension cards, though it was unclear if they received pension.
The report stated 84 percent had no access to any family property or to any assets while 15 percent of them said they had inherited property in their names but their children and family members denied them access to property.
The SC– which is seized of a PIL filed by Consumer Protection Foundation in 2007 on pathetic condition of women in widow homes – had on March 31, 2016, asked the NCW to conduct a study of women living in widow homes.
The report covers 35 widow homes in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Odisha. Earlier, the NCW had conducted a study in 2009-10 on Vrindavan widows.
It also recommended self-defence training for widows as in many Swadhar Homes widows their mobility was restricted because of safety concerns. Noting that a Swadhar Home was not a prison, the report said, “The inmates, particularly young women need to be empowered to handle unwarranted attention, molestation and rape.”
It suggested that the local police should always be partners in such a strategy.
The report highlighted that sanitation facilities were extremely poor in most of the homes and there was very little regard to privacy of women. “Menstrual hygiene is an area that needs urgent attention,” it noted. Similar was the case of medical and legal assistance.
It lamented that counseling was a neglected affair. “Neither the inmates are in a position to demand the services, nor are the homes able to assess their emotional and psychological needs”, the report noted.
Swadhar Homes are meant for women under difficult circumstances. Average annual expenditure on a widow – including that on food, medicines, pocket money and vocational training – was Rs 20,700 which comes to Rs 56 a day – much less that Rs 81 a day spent on prison inmates.
The report recommended that the sanctioned expenditure must be fair and appropriate and in tandem with inflationary costs. The widow homes should be manned by appropriately trained staff and there should be proper monitoring system.
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