Invisible, Forgotten Sufferers: Plight of Widows

Most people are unaware that there are over 100 million widows living in poverty today. 81 million widows have been abused and millions and have been ostracised and abandoned around the world, simply because they are widows. An unknown number of widows have been targeted for rape, torture and murder, others are forced into prostitution and re-marriage and many are victims of property theft, social isolation, physical and psychological abuse. It is shocking: what’s more shocking is how few people are aware of this gross violation of Human Rights.

The Loomba Foundation has been lobbying the UN and governments for the last 16 years and has succeeded in being heard. In 2005 the Foundation launched 23 June as ‘International Widows Day’ to raise awareness of the plight of widows and the UN adopted it in 2010.

According to a comprehensive global research study which was commissioned by the Loomba Foundation in 2009 it was revealed:

  • 245 million widows and over 500 million children suffer in silence worldwide
  • Over 100 million widows live in poverty struggling to survive
  • Many of these women and their children are malnourished, exposed to disease and subject to slavery
  • Widowed women experience targeted murder, rape, prostitution, forced marriage, property theft, eviction and social isolation
  • Many of them are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse
  • 1.5 million widows’ children in the world die before their fifth birthday
  • Children of widows face horrors such as child marriage, illiteracy, loss of schooling, forced labour, human trafficking, homelessness and rape
  • HIV/AIDS, ethnic cleansing, armed conflict and poverty are among the most prolific causes of widowhood
  • Persecution and abuse against widows and their children is not a crisis limited to the developing world. Large groups of widows can also be found in Europe, including Russia and Central Asia
  • Western widows face social isolation and commonly live with severe insecurity and poverty due to lack of affordable healthcare and employment

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