23 June is International Widow’s Day.
Widowhood can affect women of any age and it has been estimated that there are up to 258 million widows around the world. Approximately 1.36 million are child widows, facing the ‘triple’ disadvantage of gender, marital status and immaturity. Already robbed of a childhood, widows suffer the trauma of bereavement whilst undertaking ongoing family responsibilities for which they are ill-equipped.”*. Elderly widows also face multiple forms of discrimination particularly in relation to their gender, physical disabilities and financial status. Further to this, 10 percent of all widows are living in extreme poverty. For this reason, widows need to be accorded better legal protection ‘under all relevant UN human rights instruments and in all settings’**. Frustratingly, data on women’s status is rarely disaggregated by marital status, so “at every level of gender statistics, from national to global, widows are not visible”**. Consequently, the effectiveness of social and legal protection for widows becomes difficult to quantify whilst global and national policies become harder to implement. International Widows Day is an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights and recognition for widows. “Empowering widows through access to adequate healthcare, education, decent work, full participation in decision-making and public life, and lives free of violence and abuse, would give them a chance to build a secure life after bereavement.”**
*For more information on the issues faced by child widows, read the comprehensive report from Mohinda Watson’s Child Widows Report.
**Read more about Interntional Widow’s Day on the United Nations Website.