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Title: Experiences of Widowhood: A Phenomenological Study of Lived Experiences of Widows in Rural Assam
Authors: Jyoti, Bania
Keywords: Gender Studies
Nilanjana Ray
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: TISS
Abstract: Widowhood is considered one of the most painful life events. Literatures mainly focuses on how the Hindu wife devotes her life to her husband and is considered inauspicious if she outlives her husband; and how a widow is treated by her family and community among different castes. While earlier literature only focused on the restrictions, victimization and vulnerability associated with widowhood the present study is an attempt to understand the daily experiences faced by middle-aged widows living with their children in Assamese community. It also tries to focus on widows’ autonomy after the death of their husbands and how they negotiate with the restrictions imposed on them. It also explores the health, educational and social status of widows’ children. Under the qualitative research design, phenomenological research is conducted with 15 middle-aged widows living with their children at Nagaon District, Assam. The study reveals that most of the widows had some restrictions for one year which is till the death anniversary of their husbands. Among employed widows, their working status or the nature of their jobs give them a legitimate right to tackle the restrictions. The support that they get from their family, colleagues and children assisted the widows to stand up against the restrictions and the people or neighbours who raise questions on their mobility, dressing and behaviour. The study also reveals that some non-working widows who are dependent on their brother-in-laws are still scared of hurting their in-laws’ expectations and are leading their lives silently. With respect to Autonomy, widows who are employed in government sector enjoy greater autonomy and live independently with their children compared to widows who are solely dependent on pension. The widows who do not benefitted from government pension do not enjoy autonomy as they are dependent on their brother-in-laws. With regard to children’s health, education and social status, the study presents that working widows are taking good care of their children, encourage education and pay all expenses for their education. Widows solely dependent on pension have failed to support their children in pursuing higher education and are somehow support their children in primary schooling only. While, children of widows with no pension and formal jobs left school and engaged in different kinds of informal activities in order to earn money. It has also emerged from this study that majority of participants report no major health problems among their children while only one participant informed that she is not taking proper care of her daughter’s health who has been suffering from epilepsy and that she feels the absence of her husband’s support. Majority of the widows’ children did not face any discrimination from their family members and community but two participants report discrimination faced by their children from their family members and community as well.
Appears in Collections:M.Phil.

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