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International Widows’ Day 2024, Date, History and Significance

The United Nations observes International Widows’ Day on June 23rd each year. This day aims to:

  1. Draw attention to widows’ voices and experiences
  2. Generate support for their unique needs
  3. Promote action towards achieving full rights and recognition

The Hidden Struggle of Widows Worldwide

For millions of women around the world, losing a partner is just the beginning of a long battle for basic rights and dignity. Despite there being over 258 million widows globally, their experiences have often been overlooked and their needs unmet.

A Growing Crisis

Recent global events have made the situation even more urgent:

  • Armed conflicts
  • Displacement and migration
  • The COVID-19 pandemic

These factors have left tens of thousands of women newly widowed or with missing partners. Now more than ever, we must bring the unique experiences and needs of widows to the forefront.

Challenges Faced by Widows

Widows often encounter severe hardships, including:

  • Denial of inheritance rights
  • Property grabbing after a partner’s death
  • Extreme stigma and discrimination
  • Limited access to pensions and financial resources
  • Increased risk of poverty, especially for older women and single mothers

The Impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has worsened many of these issues:

  • Lockdowns and economic closures have limited access to bank accounts and pensions
  • Healthcare costs become a major burden
  • Existing vulnerabilities to poverty are amplified

Key Areas for Progress

To empower widows and support their families, we must focus on:

  • Providing information on inheritance rights
  • Ensuring access to land and productive resources
  • Guaranteeing pensions and social protection not based solely on marital status
  • Promoting decent work and equal pay
  • Offering education and training opportunities
  • Addressing social stigmas and discriminatory practices

The Path Forward: Protecting Widows’ Rights

Government Action

Governments must uphold their commitments to widows’ rights as outlined in international law, including:

  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Strengthening Justice Systems

Many countries need to address weaknesses in their judicial systems to better defend widows’ rights in practice. This includes:

  • Increasing awareness among judicial officials
  • Combating discrimination in the legal process

Comprehensive Support Programs

We must develop and implement programs focused on:

  • Ending violence against widows and their children
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Education and other support for widows of all ages

These efforts should align with plans to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Post-Conflict Inclusion

In post-conflict situations, widows should be fully included in:

  • Peacebuilding processes
  • Reconciliation efforts

This ensures their contributions to sustainable peace and security.

Building Back Better: Including Widows in Recovery

As we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not forget widows. Our efforts to “build back better” should:

  • Prioritize their unique needs
  • Support more inclusive, resilient, and equal societies for all

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