In the South Asian region, women are typically in a position in which they are subordinate by nature. Further along the sub-groups of these women, widows are one of them. Widows are the most marginalized within the group. Different factors that tend to cause these prominent issues, such as natural death, disasters, accidents, and many other factors, are the reasons behind widowhood in South Asia. Though it is a sizeable issue, it is a rarely discussed matter in South Asia. Consequences such as legal discrimination, political insensitivity, economic dependency, human rights violations, and social ostracization are all profoundly associated with this.

With this, the South Asian Network for Widows’ Empowerment in Development (SANWED) has been established since 2003 A.D. in order to help widows in need. It is a new initiative in the South Asian region to uphold widows’ human rights in all aspects of their lives, reduce poverty and marginalization, and eliminate all forms of social, cultural, religious, legal, and economic discrimination. This network strives to work towards women’s empowerment, mainstreaming widow’s rights at the national and regional level.

Main Issues

SANWED takes on many different agendas towards helping empower single women. Their main objectives are to develop guidelines to collect information on the status of widows through their national chapters, along with collecting data for wider dissemination. They are also working on sharing experiences and “best practices” for promoting and improving the status of widows and their dependents in the South Asian Region. SANWED also has a network with widows’ empowerment groups in other regions of the world to advocate the issues of widowhood in the context of reducing poverty and violence towards women and promoting human rights, justice, and peace at a regional, national, and international level.

SANWED works to establish a national association of windows’ groups in each country with branches or member associations in every city, town, village, refugee camp, or IDP camp so that refugees can access training and employment and participate in decision-making at every level.
-The Widows’ Charter was declared and passed at the “International Conference on Capacity Building of single women (widows),” which was held from May 12th to 14th, 2005, in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was drafted by Margaret Owen, Director of Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD) and focal person of SANWED, in coordination with SANWED member countries.

-Women with disabilities, wives of disabled husbands, and injured families WHR has been unanimously elected as the SANWED secretariat, and the founder of WHR, Lily Thapa, is unanimously nominated as the Secretary of SANWED.

-The Colombo Declaration during the 15th SAARC Summit 2008 addressed the issues of widows for the first time in Article 32 of the declaration.

-Women for Human Rights, single women group (WHR) and the Secretariat of SANWED organized a two-day consultative workshop on “Global Networking and Mainstreaming of Widows’ Issues” on December 9 and 10, 2011 to discuss the roles and responsibilities of CSOs, government agencies, and UN agencies in mainstreaming and incorporating widows’ issues into major human rights instruments like the BPFA, UNSCRs 1325/1820, and CEDAW.

-As the secretariat of SANWED, WHR organized a two-day International Conference on Widowhood, "Widows' Voices Impowered", from June 24th to 25th, 2010, in Kathmandu, Nepal.