Dressed in White - a Documentary Film

There are approximately 45 million widows in India today. About 20 million live in deplorable conditions, comprising almost 10% of the adult female population. Dressed in White, a documentary set in India, aims to create greater awareness and understanding of the fact that millions of widows remain shunned and ostracized today.

Dressed in White documents the particular condition of widows abandoned by their families, by weaving personal interviews peeling away the many layers of marginalization and social aberration moving beyond paternalism towards a model of empowerment, self determination and self sufficiency.

The documentary begins its journey in the holy town of Vrindavan, a destination for widows in search of greater dignity, who devote themselves to worship. Sri Bagwan Bhajan Ashrams, one of the oldest ashrams, founded in 1914, initially a safe haven with the intention of providing succor, has now deteriorated and is suspected of corruption.

In personal interviews, widows describe the process of asceticism, the traditional dress code of removing all adornments, wearing coarse white sari, and the humiliation of shaving of their head. They also describe emaciation through diet restrictions and exclusion from socio-religious ceremonies that leave them degraded on the fringes of society.

Dressed in White interviews Dr. Mohini Giri, herself a widow and founder of Amar Bari, “My Home,” a shelter, where approximately one hundred widows receive housing, food and medical care. Here, the film will witness one of the group marriages arranged biannually for widows, towards the re-integration back into society.

Additional interviews include 90 year-old Radha Rani, who refused to give up her begging. Shemdashi, 50 years-old, was married at 13 and widowed one year later, tells her story. Kasauri 62 years old, mocked for begging, as she belongs to the Brahmin upper caste. Dimple, 28 years old, another widow with young children, further illustrates the conditions of widowhood.

Dressed in White continues this journey to Rajasthan to interview Canadian born Ginny Sirivastva, also a widow, the founder of Women Strong Alone. The film will explore the positive changes in the lives of many widows in this grassroots organization that promotes an alternative model that enables widows to fight for their own rights, rather than relying on charity or advocacy groups attempting to speak on their behalf. These rights include: owning land and property, gaining access to programs that strengthen their economic position and the right to education and independence. Dressed in White also intends to document widows mobilized in direct action, protesting the injustices in their community.

Funding will also help to investigate further research into the history of widows like the voluntary or coerced practice of Sati or self-immolation, outlawed under British Rule in 1829 much owed to the persistence of social reformer Ram Mohan Roy.

The film hopes to interview priests on the Brahminical justifications for the status of widows in order to examine the changes in the caste system. While in the past, it was mainly Brahmin widows affected by harsh religious codes, today more lower caste women face a similar plight, emulating Brahmin customs. The film intends to interview priests, lawyers and political authorities to explore the violations meted out to these women due to social and cultural sanctions, customary beliefs, misinterpretations of religious texts, political apathy, economic deprivation, non-implementation of government programs and lack of access to the law.

This is a work in progress. Since this is a HD version it might take a moment to load but please enjoy the full screen version.


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