UN Chronicle Vol. XLIX Nos.1&2 2012
  • E-ISSN: 15643913


Four years ago, the UN Chronicle offered me a forum to propose, and give reasons for, the proclamation of an annual International Widows’ Day. That idea has become reality with the United Nations General Assembly declaring 23 June as International Widows’ Day. In a message last year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon observed that “this first International Widows’ Day is an occasion to call attention to the many “firsts” that women must face when their husbands die. In addition to coping with grief, they may find themselves for the first time since marriage without any social safety net. Far too often, widows lack access to inheritance, land tenure, employment and even the means to survive. In places where a widow’s status is linked to her husband, she may find herself suddenly shunned and isolated. Marriage—whether she desires it or not—may be the only way for a widow to regain her footing in society. Of the approximately 245 million widows in our world, more than 115 live in extreme poverty. In countries embroiled in conflicts, women are often widowed young and must bear the heavy burden of caring for their children amid fighting and displacement with no help or support. Some of these widows are teenagers—or even younger. The deaths of their husbands can leave a terrible legacy these widows must endure throughout their remaining years.”

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