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25 YEARS OF
THE LOOMBA FOUNDATION

The Loomba Foundation also conceived the strategy to create awareness about the issues of widows, their sufferings and humiliating existence.  The campaign for awareness and for governments, corporates and people to join our mission was launched by holding International Widows Day on June 23, in London.  It caught on and now International Widows Day is held every year in several countries.  Every International Widows Day, I am happy to say, creates more awareness among governments and people and more plans are decided to further help them.  This has put a smile back on the faces of thousands of widows in various developing countries.

The word ‘widow’ was almost unknown and incomprehensible to me until my father died. I was just over 10 years old.  It was agonising to see how my mother, who was until then a happy and contented housewife and a loving mother to us, (four sons and three daughters), was even in her traumatised state, made to take off her bangles, remove her bindi and wear white clothes.  My father’s passing away had shut her out from the world, it seemed.

There was more to come.  At my wedding, in the midst of the marriage ceremony, my mother was asked by the Pundit ji to leave the Vadhiyan.  It was said that being a widow she would bring bad luck to the newly-wed couple.  That was the most agonising moment for me.  I went through various emotions, pain, anguish, anger and a feeling of frustration.  How could my mother who had brought me up with so much care and love be unlucky for me?

Fortunately for us, my father, who was a successful and affluent businessman, had left enough money.  My mother had a vision and used the money educating all of us at the best institutions and she sent me to America for higher studies.  But after the marriage of my three sisters there was little money left.  There was nothing that I could do if I returned home to Punjab.  Instead, I went to Great Britain where my elder brother was settled.  It was the beginning of a longish fight to find my feet.

I did everything, mopping floors, driving ice-cream van and selling garments from temporary wayside stalls.  My mother’s blessings, I am sure helped me.  My business ventures succeeded and I was on the way to establish a successful fashion business in the UK.

But I remained restless. Why was my mother made to change from a woman to widow?  Why was it believed that she would bring bad luck to me?  It also struck me, what if my father was not prosperous and had left us no money?  My mother would not have been able to send us to college or give us nutritious food and good clothes to wear.  The images and the state of poor widows and their children I had seen in my younger days all came rushing back to me.  It was troubling.  If I was a son of a poor widow, I would not have been living in London overseeing a major fashion company.  I would have grown-up, an illiterate man, possibly plying a Rickshaw in some suburban town in Punjab.     

I decided that I would educate children of poor widows. It would not only give hope to widows but ensure that the children would grow up with enough qualification to be able to earn for their living.  Their children would not have to face poverty.

Therefore, I decided to set up a Foundation in the name of my mother for funding the schooling of poor widows’ children.  The Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba Memorial Foundation was first set up in the UK and then launched in India in 1999 by the then Indian Prime Minister.  Since I knew the plight of widows in India better, I made my mission to initially educate 100 children of poor widows in each of the Indian states. I am happy that the mission was achieved in just a few years.

The Foundation also conceived the strategy to create awareness about the issues of widows, their sufferings and humiliating existence.  The campaign for awareness and for governments, corporates and people to join our mission was launched by holding International Widows Day on June 23, in London.  It caught on and now International Widows Day is held every year in several countries.  Every International Widows Day, I am happy to say, creates more awareness among governments and people and more plans are decided to further help them.  This has put a smile back on the faces of thousands of widows in various developing countries.

But although the Foundation has achieved some success in what initially appeared to be Mission Impossible, the objective of salvaging all 285 million widows will never be achieved unless the governments, businesses and people across the world sincerely unite to tackle this huge and humane issue. 

The International Widows Day provides the incentive to every international welfare agency, states, corporate and societies to highlight the issue on one day in every part of the world.  June 23 is significant because it was on this day in 1954 when my mother became a widow in Punjab in India.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

The Loomba Foundation’s second principal aid programme, focusing on the empowerment of widows, was launched as the Foundation entered its second decade.

it is impossible for widows to find employment – whether because of discrimination or lack of skills and all too often this leads to child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.