Widows are abused in rural India

London, December 17: India’s 48 million widows need a government-appointed commission that will help them and protect them from abuse, says Raj Loomba, an Indian-origin member of Britain’s House of Lords and a campaigner for the rights of widows.

Lord Raj Loomba with Cherie Blair

“For extending financial and security help to these people, there must be a proper system to deliver services. A commission for widows is an ideal forum to shelter and protect widows in India,” Loomba told British newspaper Asian Lite.

Panchayati Raj institutions should be at the centre of the proposed system to help widows, since they suffered mostly in rural areas “which was 70 percent part of India,” said Loomba, whose Lord Loomba Foundation campaigns for the rights of widows across the world.

“In rural area, widows are abused physically, psychologically, emotionally and even sexually. In fact, they are slaves in their own homes. They are uneducated and poor. They do not know who to turn to.”

Therefore, if there was a special person dedicated to listen to and address widows’ complaints, it would help them enormously, he said.

“In addition, it will be a deterrent to people who abuse widows.”

Loomba recently launched a project to help 5,000 widows in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.

His foundation is engaged in educating children of poor widows and empowering impoverished widows by providing them with vocational skills training in tailoring, computers, hair and beauty care and hospitality sector.

It has claimed to have educated over 10,000 children and supported over 60,000 family members in 29 states in India.

Loomba said he was also seeking the help of the United Naions to alleviate the grievances of millions of widows spread across the world.

Cherie Blair, wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, is the president of the foundation.

About Lord Raj Loomba:

Lord Rajinder Paul “Raj” Loomba, Baron Loomba, CBE was born on 13 November 1943, at Dhilwan, Punjab, India. He is a philanthropist, founder and Executive Chairman of clothing company Rinku Group now branded as TiGi lable of fashion wear. He is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

Lord Loomba, was one of seven children who received his college education at D.A.V. College, Jallandhar and further education at State University of Iowa, USA.

His family moved to England in 1962. Loomba built up his fashion business from scratch, graduating from a stall at Widnes market, to a shop, a wholesale and then an import company, Rinku Group Ltd(TiGi). The company has over 200 retail concession outlets in the UK, offices in London, Delhi and China, and supplies major retail groups.

Loomba is married to Veena Chaudhry, with whom he has two daughters and one son.

Loomba has become well known for his fundraising and campaigning concerning the issue of widowhood in the developing world. With his father passing away early in his life, his mother, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba was widowed at the age of 37 in India and Loomba experienced first hand the social and economic discrimination that widows faced in India.

It was in his mother’s memory that Loomba set up his charity, The Loomba Foundation, which works to raise awareness of the issue of widowhood and which raises funds to educate the children of poor widows in India and empower widows in other developing countries in South Asia and across Africa.

Following a sustained campaign, on 21 December 2010 the United Nations General Assembly formally recognised, by unanimous acclaim, 23 June as International Widows Day.And now the flagship of the charity’s awareness campaign is International Widows Day, which takes place annually on 23 June, the anniversary of his mother’s widowhood.

In recognition of his contribution to charity, in the 2008 Birthday Honours Loomba was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), receiving his award from Charles, Prince of Wales at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

House of Lords

On 12 January 2011 Loomba was ennobled as a life peer with the name, style and title of Baron Loomba, of Moor Park in the county of Hertfordshire. He took up his seat in the House of Lords on 13 January 2011, where he represents the Liberal Democrats.                                                                                                                                 by K. Dev with Agencies

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