Widows Project

“Being with the Om Shanthi widows is like recharging your happiness battery!”

Anna Etter
Founder of the Om Shanthi Project

Widows in India

The Widows Project was founded to meet the immediate needs of widows and other destitute women in crisis, while opening minds and hearts to their plight.

Widows, especially in poor rural areas, are shunned. When a man dies, his widow’s “bad karma” is blamed for his death – not for religious reasons, but because of long-held superstitions.  Traditionally a widow cannot remarry or attend family celebrations. Even her shadow is thought to bring bad luck.

Tragically, the widows themselves believe this. With little social or economic status, they are no longer welcome in the homes of those who once loved them. Although committing “sati” (throwing herself on her husband’s burning funeral pyre) is now illegal, a widow in India becomes a social outcast. The Indian government is doing what it can to change all of this – but it is difficult to shift long-held beliefs.  

If their own adult children abandon them, elderly widows sleep in the streets, begging for alms.

Refuge for Elderly Widows

The Om Shanthi Home, established in 2011 by Anna Etter, houses elderly widows who were abandoned on the streets or were living in wretched conditions in their former homes. They are lovingly cared for around the clock by a team of 8 warm-hearted women, headed by a social worker. All of the women who work at the Home are widows themselves, with genuine empathy for the residents and their needs. 

A Real Home

Thanks to the generous support of donors, three adjoining homes were built in the Om Shanthi compound, surrounded by verandas and a garden where the women can grow vegetables. The newest building houses a hospice area. Often in the past, abandoned elderly women had to spend days or weeks in the hospital before they were strong enough to come to the Home. Now they can be cared for right away in this quiet, tranquil space. Women at the end of their lives can also receive care without being moved from their beloved Om Shanthi community.

Job Training for Younger Widows

A second, very important part of the Om Shanthi Project empowers young widows and other destitute women to become self-supporting. The project provides training, safe job placements, steady income, free medical care, and educational help for children of the women.

Most of the women are trained at the Premalaya Handicrafts Society where they gain skill in crafting Fair Trade products that are highly valued in the West, as well as in India.

Return to Life

The Premalaya workplace is healing. Women who have suffered rejection, deprivation, and isolation feel welcomed and enjoy working together. The new counseling center offers women emotional support, job placement services, and help filling out applications for the small government pensions available to widows.

With your support, widows are rejoining their communities with confidence.

Help for Destitute Women - The Widows Project

Your gifts transform the lives of widows and other women in great need.

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