Education of children of poor widows and socio-economic empowerment of their mothers is at the heart of the work of the Loomba Foundation. In addition we actively advocate to promote the fundamental freedoms and human rights of widows and their children around the world. Please see below for a summary of our main areas of work.
Since March 1999, the Loomba Foundation has been educating the children of widows in India through its education support programme, which has run continuously for over ten years. The objective set out at the start was to educate at least 100 children in each of India’s federal states, a target achieved in 2006. The programme’s first corporate sponsor was Virgin Unite, the charity of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group of companies, a partnership that started in 2000. Through the support of private and corporate donors, the programme has educated over 9,000 children to date. The programme also assisted in post-disaster recovery in Tamil Nadu where it supported the education of children orphaned by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In 2014 we educated over 1,500 children in 13 states in India.
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The Loomba Foundation has put empowerment at the heart of its work. The idea is to make widows self-sufficient economically through marketable skills training. This allows widows to provide for their families, including the education of their children. It also has an important impact on psychological well-being, allowing them to become self-confident and to develop self-worth.
The Loomba Foundation has empowered widows in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Syria in association with Youth Business International, the HRH Prince of Wales’s charity. During 2006-08 we partnered with Virgin Unite, Sir Richard Branson’s charity, to support Starfish Greathearts Foundation in South Africa to help 1,500 HIV/AIDS orphans living in precarious conditions, sometimes without any parents. During 2009-10 our work covered an innovative business start-up initiative with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Solar Aid to train and equip women in Kenya to sell solar chargers. In Rwanda in 2010-11 the Loomba Foundation supported Oxfam GB to provide an agricultural livelihoods project for 300 genocide widows to train them in pineapple growing and dairy farming. More recently we partnered with the Punjab state government in 2014 to train 5,000 widows to make garments with sewing machines.
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The Loomba Foundation has made a determined effort to create better understanding and awareness of the problems widows and their children face around the world. It has done this principally through its annual event, International Widows Day, that it launched in 2005 as an international observance day for widows to raise awareness and advocate for change. The campaign also focused on working towards encouraging the United Nations to recognise International Widows Day as a United Nations international observance day for widows.
In 2010, the United Nations approved the founding of International Widows Day as an official observance day with the first United Nations International Widows Day observed on 23 June 2011. The Loomba Foundation also holds conferences to promote and discuss the issue of widows, and uses research to deepen understanding and awareness. In 2009 the Loomba Foundation completed the first ever global research report on the status of widows.
While the plight of widows has gained more and more coverage over the years, it is still largely a hidden issue. International Widows Days and the proliferation of NGOs geared towards helping women as well as widows is certainly having a positive effect but there are still many widows around the world that suffer violence and ill treatment. In India and Africa the problem is particularly acute and the issue is further exacerbated after conflicts such as those in Syria and Afghanistan.
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