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 were once home to thousands of disenfranchised widows, but following GFW’s Amal Project with funding from Whole Planet Foundation, 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 funded by Whole Planet Foundation, Jihan was able to purchase inventory for the store, and grow her business.
Similarly, Wadiaa, a young widow in Minya, found herself living with her parents after she was disinherited by her husband’s relatives. With a $200 microloan from GFW funded by 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 financial independence, widows became true role models to their children and to others, and their resilience is an inspiration to us all.
About the Global Fund for Widows
The Global Fund for Widows is the world’s largest non-profit organization economically empowering widows in the developing world. We do this by offering micro-finance to widows through our partners, and by building our own financial inclusion innovation of the Widows’ Savings and Loan Associations, or “micro-banks,” which provide them with a permanent source of capital from which they can launch micro-businesses. Thus far, we have built 90 WISALAs around the world, and have empowered 20,000 widows and helped 50,000 of their children across Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Malawi, and India.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected widows around the world. To accommodate alarms of hunger emanating from global lockdowns, Global Fund for Widows added feeding the hungry and starting small income generating businesses to its activities. In just the last few months, we are proud to have launched 400 micro-enterprises and offered widows with 6 million meals.
Global Fund for Widows uses its success in the field to advocate for widows at the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Security Council, United Nations Human Rights Council, US Congress, and the House of Lords