The event is a part of efforts to bring these women, who have been socially ostracised for ages and kept away from festivals and other celebrations, into social mainstream.

Thousands of elderly widows, mostly in their 80s, hailing from various parts of the country started making special 'rakhis' (decorated sacred thread) 20 days ago using flowers and other decorative material, for the festival which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters.

They will hand over the 'rakhis' to Social worker Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of NGO Sulabh International, on August 9, who will then present them to the Prime Minister on 'Rakshabandhan' day.

Widows after death of their husbands still face humiliation and insult from their family members. They are even restricted from attending any auspicious function in their families. They are not allowed to wear colourful saris, ornaments, and have to wear only white clothes, Pathak said.

Pathak's NGO Sulabh International is helping improve the lives of around 1,500 such women in Varanasi, Vrindavan and Kedarnath Valley.

200 children from various schools of Delhi and Mathura-Vrindavan will take part in Rakhi celebration which will be organised at Meera Sahabhagini Ashram on August 9.

The widows will also tie rakhis to local saints and Brahmins.
Breaking shackles of social stigma, these women had taken part in Holi, Diwali, and Durga Puja celebrations following efforts of the NGO.

Sulabh International, an NGO known worldwide for promoting the concept of low-cost sanitation, has started taking keen initiative in the welfare of widows after the Supreme Court took strong exception last year to the manner in which the bodies of widows, who lived in government shelter homes at Vrindavan, were disposed.

Every widow is given Rs 2,000 per month by the NGO which takes care of their health and other needs.     The NGO has provided the government-run shelters in Vrindavan five ambulances along with medical equipment for timely and adequate medical attention.

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