23, 2011 : The world marks the first International Widows Day with a conference at the United Nations in New York. The event brings together widows, advocates, diplomats, UN officials, NGOs and other dignitaries to address the plight of hundreds of millions of widows and their children who live as marginalized individuals, deprived of rights and under conditions of social and economic hardship. Improving the lives of widows and their children is also central to realizing the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and achieving social and economic justice and empowerment for women. Some of the prominent participants at the event include Christiane Amanpour, ABC news anchor, This Week; Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, First Lady of the Gabonese Republic; Dr. Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, former President, Chile; Mrs. Ban Soon Taek, wife of the United Nations Secretary General; Mrs. Cherie Blair, President, the Loomba Foundation; Lord Raj Loomba, Founder and Chairman, the Loomba Foundation; and, Mr. Amir Dossal, Founder, Global Partnerships Forum.Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the First Lady of the Gabonese Republic, along with The Loomba Foundation, an international NGO led by Lord Raj Loomba and Cherie Blair, were instrumental laying the groundwork for the United Nations General Assembly’s unanimous adoption of a resolution establishing June 23 as “International Widows Day.” The resolution was approved by the 192 representatives of the Third Committee of the General Assembly. The rare designation of an international day recognizing widows by the UN follows independent verification of shocking levels of violence and deprivation faced by the 245 million widows and more than 500 million of their children worldwide.
Nearly 60 million widows live in extreme poverty where basic needs go unmet. Widows and their children disproportionately suffer from malnutrition, poor health and physical insecurity, putting widows at greater risk for rape, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. Up until now, widows have been a disadvantaged class of peoples who have not been recognized as such. International Widows Day is the first step in raising awareness for this important cause and seeks to bring about greater dignity and human rights for widows the world over.