India's second pandemic wave has left in its wake many young COVID widows, who isolated and unemployable, face unnavigable societal hurdles. Of the over 6,500 COVID widows under 35 years of age in Andhra Pradesh, WEP partner Aarti Home has identified 60 to attend the Leadership Academy, a life skills and alternative livelihoods training program. The program will address immediate sustenance needs and empower the young widows to create a sustainable future for their families.
Amidst COVID-19's turmoil, the plight of young widows from lower socio-economic strata is particularly dire. Mostly unskilled and uneducated, these young women, many mothers, are uniquely disenfranchised. Traditionally considered a bad omen to be shunned by society, they are often disowned by their in-laws and unable to return to their parents, themselves poor. Isolated and unemployable, they, and their children, are highly susceptible to sex and job trafficking and other exploitation.
Aarti Home, a WEP partner, has identified 60 young widows in Kadapa, AP, to attend a satellite version of the WEP Leadership Academy. Aarti will provide counseling, meals, identify housing, and enroll the children in school. WEP and Aarti will provide a holistic life skills and alternative livelihoods training program. Skilled and confident, widows completing the program are trained in livestock care, farming, and tailoring, to provide their families sustenance and open local enterprises.
Holistically addressing the needs of these 60 widows with both immediate aid and livelihood training, the WEP/Aarti Leadership Academy creates a sustainable path forward for these young women. With raised self-esteem, confidence and skills, graduates are able to support themselves and their children, (while keeping them in enrolled in school) and effectively advocate for themselves, their families and communities. Those who become entrepreneurs, actively contribute to the local Kadapa economy.