Widows in Egypt celebrated International Widows’ Day with a Commemorative candlelight ceremony in Old Cairo. Each widow uniformly could not comprehend the notion of a celebration in her honor. Given this initial trepidation, the Global Fund for Widows was honored that nearly 40 widows joined in the festivities.

The evening commenced with inspirational words from our partners in the field. These inspirational words discussed how widows are some of the most penurious beings. The onus of society is not to ostracize or blame widows, but to support, protect, and assist them. These words elicited a very strong reaction from the widows, some of whom left the building and were found outside weeping in response to the recognition of their plight.

A brief candlelight vigil, marked by the singing of cultural songs and trills, was punctuated by a special dinner of fish, shrimp and spiced rice. Most of the widows had never tasted shrimp before, and fish and spiced rice are considered a delicacy. Most importantly, the feast was prepared by some of the widows that had been trained in the community center under our programs. This feast was indeed more than just a dinner, it was a testimony to the personal advances they such widows have made, validation of their sacrifices and labour, and a true symbol of their empowerment. Many of those dining remained in awe, insisting that the food was prepared by trained chefs from a restaurant! Perhaps most importantly is that once the group recognized that indeed it was widows who had prepared the feast with the skills gained from programs implemented by the GFW, the reality of what this commemoration signified finally began to solidify in the widows minds.

From the commencement of the evening with a few words from our partners in the field, until the end of the feast, the widows slowly began to understand what International Widows’ Day symbolized, and why they had been invited to attend a celebration in their own honor.  As they boarded their buses to return to their homes, the widows reported feelings that they didn’t expect to feel again: feelings of gratitude instead of frustration, joy instead of sorrow, and hope instead of despair.