International Widows Day: A day for the invisible women
India is among several countries where widows are treated as social pariahs, barred from leading a normal life and ridiculed and rebuked if they dared to.
For scores of widows from impoverished backgrounds, the death of a spouse is often synonymous with loss of basic rights including inheritance, dignity and economic standing as well as an unofficial boycott from social life. In many cultures, widows are considered ominous during social functions and are hence not invited.
International Widows Day has been founded to talk about and address the “poverty and injustice” faced by millions of widows and their dependents across the world, and spread awareness on their situation.
International Widows Day was founded by UK-based NGO, The Loomba Foundation in 2005. It was on June 23 that the father of Lord Rajinder Paul Loomba, the founder of Loomba Foundation, died, making her mother a widow.
International Widows Day was officially recognised by the UN General Assembly as the International Widows Day in 2010.
According to the UN, there are around 258 million widows across the world. Parts of Africa including the Democratic Republic of the Congo account for almost 50 per cent of the world’s widow population. While the number of widows is said to have risen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN says nearly one in every 10 widows, lives in extreme poverty.
Over the years, the UN has tried to alleviate the situation of widows through the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The theme for the International Widows’ Day this year is ‘Invisible Women, Invisible Problems.’
The theme of International Widows Day is an indication of the plight of a widow and loss of identity in society after the death of her husband.