As women are increasingly raising their voice against injustices within the family, cases of separation in marriages are also rising and it’s only for the good. This pattern is also adding to the number of single parents in the country. A recent report conducted by UN Women revealed cases of women in various kinds of homes like homes run by couples, couples living with children, extended families etc and single mothers running their homes to gauge the progress of women within these types of homes. In its research it found that India alone comprises of approximately 13 million single mothers running their homes making it around an estimated 4.5% of all Indian households in the country.

What the numbers say?

The recently released report is titled “Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World” examines how the transformations in families impact women’s rights, and reveals that most countries can afford family-friendly policies. It found that globally a vast majority of lone-parent families, which are 8% of households, are led by women, often juggling paid work, child-rearing and unpaid domestic work. Since the organisation covered 89 countries in the report, the number of households led by single mothers goes up to 101.3 billion.

“Around the world, we are witnessing concerted efforts to deny women’s agency and their right to make their own decisions in the name of protecting ‘family values’. Yet, we know through research and evidence that there is no ‘standard’ form of family, nor has there ever been,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“Around the world, we are witnessing concerted efforts to deny women’s agency and their right to make their own decisions in the name of protecting ‘family values’. Yet, we know through research and evidence that there is no ‘standard’ form of family, nor has there ever been,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “This report counters that push back by showing that families, in all their diversity, can be critical drivers of gender equality, provided decision-makers deliver policies rooted in the reality of how people live today, with women’s rights at their core.”

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Young single mothers are judged for their success

While many single mothers live alone, there are also those who live in their extended families. However, the South Asian patriarchal society also persisting in India and other countries around does not spare single mothers of prejudices, misconceptions and judgements. Nidhi Shirim, who works as an Executive Assistant at a well-recognised construction company in Ahmadabad spoke to SheThePeople.TV about being a single mother and dealing with success. “Being a single parent and a woman we still have to deal with taboo in the society. If the woman is successful in her profession then the first thing that comes in people’s mind is that there has to be something fishy about it especially if you are a young single mother.

If there is a young male single parent, he would be lauded for it but just because I am a woman, a lot of people judge me on the basis of my success. There have been several occasions I have received judgemental looks from people if they saw me sitting with my male colleagues or friends. It affects my mental health and makes me feel like I have done something wrong by accessing the workplace.”

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Social challenges that single mothers face

She added that while on this front not much has changed in the society at the mind-set level, she has also faced issues in getting official work done because of her being a single mom. “Once I wanted to start an investment scheme at the post office for my daughter and for documentation of the scheme called “Sukanya”, they required the father’s signature on it. I told them that I am a single parent and had divorced right at that time, and then they wanted to have my degree. I also told them that I have not received my degrees from my matrimonial house but they refused to approve my application.”

Another single mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, and runs her own business, told us that she could not rent out a house in Delhi because she is a female single parent. “I had just moved to Delhi back then and wanted to live in a more spacious house with my mother and daughter and so I started my hunt for a house to rent. However, I came to know that people were anxious to rent a house to me because I am a woman and once when somebody did rent out an apartment to me, within six months they started creating problems and wanted us to move out. I didn’t face this in Bangalore but in Delhi it was very apparent.”

She also touched upon the subject of dating for single mothers in India as she said that there would be no issues with a single father dating because people sympathise with them but when it comes to women, it is extremely difficult.

Dating for single moms in India

She also touched upon the subject of dating for single mothers in India as she said that there would be no issues with a single father dating because people sympathise with them but when it comes to women, it is extremely difficult. “It’s not an issue abroad but the society here is such that single mothers feel suffocated.”

Dating and remarriage in India is definitely looked down upon more for a divorced mother than a widowed mother.

Has the condition of single mothers changed over the years?

Speaking about the changes that have happened over the years, Anita Aggarwal, who has been a single mother for over two decades now, believes that things have gotten better for women today but patriarchal thoughts persist. “With education and awareness we have come a long way, now that women have started earning a livelihood, they don’t feel as downtrodden as women during my time. And with time, you start ignoring a lot of things said about you but the one thing that comes out of it is that you teach your children to never settle in the face of injustice.

I remember feeling like I have stolen something big for living separately with my mother at my parents place. I also didn’t have the kind of education women are exposed to today because in those days a lot of women did not study professional degrees because they were never expected to earn a living. But I still made use of what my education allowed me and that’s what one has to rely upon. No one else other than your family comes to your support, and that’s why one mustn’t pay heed to the society.”

Picture credit- Gailbraith Family Law

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