For over a decade, the United Nations has been observing June 23rd as International Widows’ Day. This day serves as a wonderful opportunity to draw attention to the voices of widows and their experiences. This year, the Global Fund for Widows (GFW) is pleased to celebrate International Widows Day with Whole Planet Foundation, and share the roaring success of our widows’ empowerment project in Egypt, The Amal Project.
With a visionary grant from Whole Planet Foundation, GFW has been able to work with partners in Egypt to establish the largest widows’ empowerment program in the world, with over 17,000 widows economically empowered and roughly 42,000 of their children indirectly impacted. Hugging fertile fields around the Nile, the Egyptian regions of Minya and Beni Suef where were once home to thousands of disenfranchised widows, but following GFW and Whole Planet Foundations Amal Project, these farming villages are now enjoying the economic and social buzz of widows’ successful micro-enterprises.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the widows’ businesses have thrived in 2020. This success can be explained by the nature of those businesses; among our beneficiaries, 23% of widows started a business in poultry raising, 24% of widows farm other livestock, and 18% own a small grocery shop. This focus on agribusiness made it possible for widows to avoid economic swings during the pandemic as their businesses remained essential to feeding their communities.
One of these inspiring stories is that of Jihan, who lost her husband four years ago. Having no income or social safety net, Jihan was forced to leave the children at home and take over her late husband’s corner convenience store. With a microloan from GFW and the Whole Planet Foundation, Jihan was able to purchase inventory for the store, and grow the business.
Similarly, Wadiaa, a young widow in Minya, found herself living with her parents after she was disinherited by her husbands’ relatives. With a $200 microloan from GFW and the Whole Planet Foundation, Wadiaa purchased 3 small goats, fulfilling a dream to become a small-scale livestock farmer. As her goats grew and the loan was paid back, she received an additional loan for $333 which allowed her to buy four goats and keep growing her business. With profits from her growing farm, Wadiaa ensured that her son stayed in school, and is proud that he is now studying in college.
On this International Widows’ Day, we reiterate our commitment to #MakeWidowsMatter in Egypt and globally. By achieving financialindependence, our widows became true role models to their children and toothers, and their resilience is an inspiration to us all.