The Woman in White

If you see any Nepalese woman dressed in a plain white sari without any other ornaments, try looking into her eyes. Only then will you be able to see the pain in her eyes and the loneliness in her soul.

Historically, Nepalese widows were burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyre. A husband and a wife are considered soul mates, and the logic was that a widow is only half a person. The widow was to die so that the couple would be together again. While widow-burning was banned in the 1920, the underlying assumption still exists. To be a widow in Nepal is to live a half-life.

If her husband dies the Nepali woman faces the horrors of widowhood, which in many villages means being completely hated. Widows are not allowed to stay at their in-laws homes. If they are allowed to remain, they are given ever-decreasing portions of food and resources. They are not allowed to wear red, which is the symbol of life and passion. Most aren’t allowed to re-marry. They are kept way from all other social events like marriage and festivals.

That is not just it! In some other communities, the widow has to return all her property to the in-laws. And so the widow is left alone; homeless and penniless. Shunned by their communities and denied access to education and a job, widows and their children are vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse. Many face starvation.

Sad as it is, a widow is certainly not respected in a community. But her endurance power  is something that one must look upon. I bet there is no one who will disagree to this!