International Widows Day, 2020

The 2020 international day of the Widows had come and gone. It afforded the world to speak again about the plights of the widows. The theme for the 2020 International widows day,’ I am Generation Equality’: realizing women’s rights, which is in aligned with UN women’s new multi- generational campaign, Generation Equality.

The United Nations General Assembly formally adopted June 23 as international widow’s day on December 21, 2010, and began to observe it from 2011. But the day had been established before then by the Loomba Foundation in memory of Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, who became a widow in 1954. Its purpose was to care for widows and their children, to change the culture that discriminates against them.

The day is important as it brings about awareness among the public the problems that widow’s face all over the world. It is a time to reflex on the progress that has been made, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women. It is also a day to draw the attention of the people to take action and provide full rights and recognition for widows.

The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres in his message during the commemoration said, ‘as we strive to address COVID – 19, government must work to include support for widow’s immediate needs in fiscal stimulus programmes, through access to cash transfers’.

According to him, as we work ‘to build back better’ from this crisis, recovery efforts must be accompanied by long-term structural changes, including ending discriminately laws that deny women equal rights to men and ensuring the availability of social protection, so that women do not start out at a disadvantage. ‘We also need quality data, broken down by age and sex, to ensure that widows are counted and supported, now and in the future’, he added.

He advised that on the international widow’s day, the society should strengthen communities, value families and rebuild societies that support widows in all their diversity.

Antonio Guterres stated that the unprecedented levels of isolation and economic hardship brought by the COVID – 19 crises can further compromise widow’s ability to support themselves and their families and cutting them off from social connection at a time of profound grief.

In her statement on the 2020 international widows day, the Under Secretary of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said over the past several months, we have seen the myriad ways in which the COVID – 19 pandemic impacts the lives of women and men differently. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the effects of the pandemic are exacerbated for women and girls, while at the same time; mortality from the virus tends to be higher for men.

She disclosed that the UN’s data hob, women count, presents World Health Organization data that shows men account for 59 per cent of corona virus deaths in Italy, 68 percent in Mexico and 77 percent in Thailand.

According to her this represents a devastating human loss, and one that is likely leaving tens of thousands of women newly widowed at just the time when they are cut off from their usual social-economic and family supports.

She stated that, already, widows were largely unseen, unsupported and unmeasured in our societies, adding that the latest figures that we have 2015, estimate that some 258 million women globally have been widowed, the actual number is likely to be much higher and to grow further as the corona virus and its related effects on health continue to rage around the
world.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said Government must provide immediate support, while working to revamp social and economic structures in the long term, in addition to legal reform to ensure that widows have equal inheritance and property rights.

She said we need to see fiscal stimulus programmes that support widows and older single women economically, adding that the reach and benefit levels of social assistance programmes such as cash transfers and social pensions should be expanded and these benefits must be accessible to those without bank accounts.

‘It is critical to invest in the work of civil society, in particular, grassroots and community-based groups, who can provide widows with vital support at the local level and challenge the discriminatory, sometimes deadly social norms that they face’ she added.

The Executive Director, UN Women, also pleaded that Widows must not be left out of our work to ‘build back better’ from COVID – 19, ‘let us ensure that our recovery prioritizes their unique needs and supports societies to be more inclusive, resilient and equal for all’, she stated.

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