Widowed breadwinners — a story to tell

international widows day
(Photo: Petra)
AMMAN — There could be no more devastating moment in a woman’s life than the loss of her husband, which reshapes her family life and leaves her with a mountain of responsibilities, not to mention the responsibility to raise her children alone, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.اضافة اعلان

The number of breadwinner widows in the Kingdom is estimated to be around 30,000, according to official data.

Despite being a widow for nearly two decades, Umm Mustafa managed to raise six children on her own. Her burden is compounded by the fact that one of her sons has epilepsy, necessitating the placement of that child in a specialized facility.

There is not enough money coming in to meet their basic needs, and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse, according to her.

Adla Al-Tweisi, the head of the Wadi Musa Widows and Development Families Association, says the association has a lending arm that extends financial support to vulnerable women in the community to give them a fighting chance in life.

For this reason, she is particularly interested in empowering widows and other low-income families, as well as establishing worthwhile projects to boost household income and provide financial assistance to university students.

About 18 women received assistance from the association, including one mother of five whose late husband had been building a home before he passed away, said Tweisi.

According to the woman, the husband’s salary of JD100 per month was used to pay back a bank loan. Consequently, the association took the initiative to secure a loan from a donor, allowing the family to finish the construction of their home and enabling the mother to work in sales.

Another widow has three children, all of whom suffer from stunted growth. A loan of JD1,500 was obtained through the association, allowing her to open a supermarket and earn a decent living.

Tweisi said that women may be involved in projects or work to help their families meet their needs, which helps combat the culture of shame within the community at large.

Jordanian widows aged 15 and older make up approximately 9.9 percent of all women, while Jordanian breadwinner widows make up nearly 75.4 percent. According to 2021 figures from the Department of Statistics, the percentage of unemployed widows is around 7.9 percent.

Approximately 30,652 widows (heads of households) receive monthly aid and 2,374 widows benefit from a unified cash support program, according to media spokesperson and advisor to the Director-General of the National Aid Fund Najeh Sawalha.

Psychologist Mai Mhaidat recently published a book titled “Widows as a Model: The Support and Rehabilitation Program Provided to Jordanian Women One Hundred Years after the Founding of the Jordanian State”, in which she concluded that widows’ quality of life can be improved through psychological, emotional, and behavioral therapy and support.

When the breadwinner husband dies, Mhaidat says that some families are at risk of breakup, which puts enormous strain on the widowed mother and exacerbates the family’s living conditions.

For widows and families with orphaned children, the government runs multiple programs to provide for their basic needs while also empowering women to start their own businesses and earn an income.

Widows should be given psychosocial support that focuses on helping them find meaning in life, improve their emotional well-being, learn problem-solving skills, and adjust to a life-altering event like the death of a spouse, according to Mhaidat.

Vice President of the Association of Psychiatrists Alaa Froukh says that widows’ mental health benefits greatly from social support. As a result of the husband’s absence, Froukh believes that the wife’s psychological, material and social support is diminished, necessitating additional assistance to deal with the new stresses.

Yousef Al-Sharman, professor of sociology at Al-Balqa Applied University, believes that widows may experience verbal and possibly physical abuse, in addition to being denied inheritance and having unwelcome intrusions into their life.

He advocates for empowering widows to access their full rights to alleviate psychological and social pressures, including the presumption that widows should remain single to care for their children.

The UN General Assembly designated an International Widows’ Day, observed every year at the beginning of the last week of June, to highlight issues affecting widows, who number around 254 million worldwide.

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