The Widows and Orphans Development Foundation (WODF) was established in order to complement efforts being undertaken by various actors to address the social, economic, cultural and legal challenges that perpetuate injustice and violation of the human rights of widows as well as supporting orphans with the basic and educational needs.
WODF’s work is aligned with the Global Agenda - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The target groups for WODF's work are widows, orphans and destitute women and children.
A widow is understood to be a female (a woman or a girl) who has lost her spouse or a legally recognized partner by actual or legally declared death and has not re-married.
An orphan is a child under the age of 18 who has lost one or both parents by way of death. UNICEF categorizes orphans into ‘single orphan’ – a child who has lost one parent – and ‘double orphan’ as a child who has lost both parents.
A destitute person means a person who lacks key life essentials such as food, shelter, water, health care and other necessities as a result of extreme poverty.
WODF's work focuses on Africa as a priority region, mainly in Tanzania, particularly in rural areas where the majority of widows and orphans live in poverty. We also implement programs in the Netherlands that aim at enhancing the psychosocial wellbeing of widowed persons.
The programs in Tanzania are mainly on economic empowerment through skills-building for disadvantaged widows, human rights awareness, and direct support to old and incapacitated widows that includes provision of basic life necessities such as food and health care.
For orphans, programs are directed at supporting orphans' education since most widows living in poverty cannot meet the schooling needs of their children or grandchildren.
In the Netherlands, WODF focuses on programs that aim at enhancing the psycho-social wellbeing of widows through activities that address emotional, psychological and social issues that affect widowed persons. To learn more about our programs, visit the pages about our programs in Tanzania and in The Netherlands.
Some key facts relevant to our work
*Tanzania which is located in East Africa has about 765,284 widowed persons and 1,696,349 orphans out of the total population of 44,928,923 according to the National Population Census Report of 2012. (No recent official statistics are available).
*Some of the widows are children under the age of 18 (Mhoja, 2018).
*Majority of the widows live in extreme poverty after the death of their husbands as a result of lack of an income since many of them were dependent on their husbands, or as a result of property grabbing by their in-laws.
*Majority of the widows live in rural areas and lack awareness about their rights.
*Many widows have no means to reach the courts to claim their inheritance rights, too poor to hire a lawyer, too scared to testify against their in-laws mainly after being threatened by the in-laws.
*Some of the widows are threatened by their husbands’ relatives that they will die with their children if they refuse to be cleansed and marry their brothers-in-law.
*In some parts in rural areas, orphans work to support themselves and their families (working on neighbours’ farms, selling firewood, farm produce, and brick making) whereby they earn between TZS 500 (US$0.23) and TZS 1000 (US$ 0.45) per day.
In the Netherlands
*There are 858,443 widowed persons in the Netherlands out of the total population of 17,282,163 as of December 2019 (according to the Central Bureau of Statistics).
*Among them, 657,169 are widowed women and 201,274 widowed men.
*The death of the spouse can be a major source of loneliness, psycho-social stress, and depression to the widowed persons (Van den Berg et al, 2006).
*Conjugal bereavement may directly deteriorate the physical health of the surviving spouse by impairing the immune system, increasing the prevalence of chronic illnesses.
*The death of the partner increases the mortality rate of the surviving spouse especially during the first three years, in particular among the older widows.
*Men are more vulnerable to depression than women during the widowhood period (Van Grootheest et al, 1999).
*Social relationships and networks may help alleviate loneliness and stress thus enhancing the wellbeing of widowed persons and reducing the costs of formal care services.