Verena put on her black gown for the first time after she lost her husband. It was a public signal that she was a widow.
Other women now avoided her when she walked down the dusty roads of her village, Nag El Kesariya. Some in Egypt see a woman without a husband as available. In the eyes of other wives, she was now dangerous.
But Verena soon discovered another reason that Egypt’s widows often confine themselves within the walls of their homes — harassment.
One evening on her way home with groceries, the 20-some year old mother of three realized that men were following her. Two men continued stalking her whenever she stepped out, and she worried that they also started spying on her little girls. But Verena couldn’t hide. She had to stand up for herself and her children.
With the help of the volunteer Rep, Verena enrolled in a new two-year training program for nurses at her local church. She began learning skills that everyone in the village needed. Soon, other women stopped avoiding her. They asked for her help and advice. She is no longer isolated. Not only that, but harassment ceased as she earned the trust of the villagers.
When she is done, she will work for the government, earning even more respect from her community.
While Verena still wears the black garb of a widow when she is at home, she no longer bears a widow’s pall of shame. Her daughters, too, will grow up in the dignity and respect she emanates.
There are some in every village or neighborhood who are like vultures eyeing the vulnerable.
The best defense for families like Verena’s is financial independence and social dignity. We apply the same two active ingredients in our microcredit program for widows, B’edaya.