Education of children of poor widows and socio-economic empowerment of their mothers is at the heart 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.
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.
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The Loomba Foundation has put empowerment at the heart of its work. It does this by making widows self-sufficient economically through marketable skills training and provision of business start up capital. Through these, widows are able 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.
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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 having the United Nations recognise International Widows Day as a United Nations international observance day for widows. Events were held by Loomba Foundation partners in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Syria.
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 on the widows problem, 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.
Sadly, the plight of widows has been unrecognised by mainstream institutions such as governments, the United Nations and large international NGOs in spite of determined efforts by many smaller organisations to bring the problem to light. United Nations International Widows Day has begun to reverse this neglect.
Lord Loomba, who is the founder and Chairman Trustee of the Loomba Foundation, grew up as a widow’s son. He experienced firsthand the prejudice and suffering faced by his mother as a widow in India. This experience later inspired him to start the Loomba Foundation to ensure that other widows do not suffer as his mother did and to protect the children of widows.
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