Single Women of India - Fighting for Respect; Fighting it All!

“Realize that if a door is closed, it’s because what was behind it wasn’t meant for you.” ― Mandy Hale

The word ‘Single’ is defined as “unmarried or not involved in a stable sexual relationship.” This definition covers almost all aspects of a single woman’s daily life, but what it fails to accommodate is the immense struggle and hardship of the life of a single woman.

The women in India have been subject to discrimination and differential treatment since ages. Women form 48.9 % of India’s 1.3 billion+ population. Out of that chunk, more than 12% (72 million+) are single. This does not only mean 72 million widows or single mothers, but it also includes divorcees and unmarried women. In rural India, though this notion is changing day by day, the average household depends on the men of the family for their income and the women are looked at as homemakers. The average day consists of the man of the house going to work to earn bread for his family and the woman staying back at home and taking care of the child and the house. Despite educational gains, the labor force participation of women in 2017 was 28.5% (compared to 82% for men).

To many of these women who depend on their spouse to meet their daily needs, losing their husband is a catastrophe which they are not prepared for. The main reason of a woman being termed as a ‘Single Woman’ is death, divorce or abandonment of their spouse. In case of death/divorce, there is very little that a woman can do to retain her lifestyle or even meet her daily needs. If the woman has a child, she usually gets full custody in case of divorce. This situation that the woman is suddenly thrown into becomes the hardest time of her life. For a woman who has never worked before, earning income and being able to feed her family seems to be an unsustainable task.

Widowed women, 29.2 million, lead the single-women category in rural areas followed by those who never married at 13.2 million. The situation is the same in urban areas: Widows make up the maximum number of single women at 13.6 million followed by those who never married, 12.3 million. There are 44.4 million single women in rural areas, almost 62% of single women in India. Although rural single females outnumber their urban counterparts, there was a 58% increase in the number of urban single women, from 17.1 million in 2001 to 27 million in 2011. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of single women, 12 million; the majority has never been married, followed by Maharashtra at 6.2 million and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh at 4.7 million.

Single women in rural India not only face immense emotional stress but are also subject to social injustices. Sati is an obsolete funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre or takes her own life in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death. Though this practice has been termed to be a criminal offence by the Government of India, there have been cases of Sati in parts of rural Rajasthan. Though a lot of reforms have been made, being a Widow in rural India is a cursed affair. Widows are treated very badly and become a nuisance to the village that once loved and praised them. Single women in rural areas have to constantly battle societal prejudices and fight for survival; the atrocities faced by widowed women from their in-laws after the death of their husbands are more acute as they are caught between rigid social & religious customs.

To cater these issues, we empower single women to become leaders of social change in their own communities across the Beed, Latur, Osmanabad and Nanded districts of Marathwada, through our Single Women Issues campaign.

We work in 363 villages, of which:

1. 10327 single women participate in village-level meetings,

2. 8273 single women are reached out to,

3. 3491 single women are linked to Govt. schemes.

4. 155 single women re-enrolled in formal education

5. 10327 of single women participating in village level meetings/gramsabhas

Though the average single woman in India faces a lot of hardship and struggle, she does not fail to get back up on her feet after she’s been pushed down. They have set an example for the rest of the world as they have risen from the society’s dark valleys of prejudice.