“We must recognize the important contribution of widows, and we must ensure that they enjoy the rights and social protections they deserve. Death is inevitable, but we can reduce the suffering that widows endure by raising their status and helping them in their hour of need. This will contribute to promoting the full and equal participation of all women in society. And that will bring us closer to ending poverty and promoting peace around the world.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Today marks the first International Widows’ Day. This day, to be observed on June 23rd of each year, was declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations “to give special attention to the situation of widows and their children.”
Watch this video for a nice report on this special day.
As a widow in a developed country, I am fortunate to receive acceptance, support, and gratitude in this new role. But unfortunately, many if not most widows in less developed countries are not afforded the same. According to the UN, “Millions of the world’s widows endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom.” More than 115 million widows all over the world face extreme poverty. Many women are subjected to physical and mental abuse, evicted from their homes, stigmatized and shamed, and left to struggle to care for themselves and their children.
International Widows’ Day was declared to raise awareness of the struggles faced by widows, and to provide an opportunity to address change. All widows, regardless of culture, religion, race, ethnicity, economic situation, etc, should be granted rights and opportunities for growth and advancement. This is the goal of this historic day. “Empowering widows through access to adequate healthcare, education, decent work, full participation in decision-making and public life, and lives free of violence and abuse, would give them a chance to build a secure life after bereavement. Importantly, creating opportunities for widows can also help to protect their children and avoid the cycle of inter-generational poverty and deprivation.”
As a military widow, I have been blessed with an endless amount of support in all aspects of widowhood. The Air Force and all branches of service, as well as countless individuals and groups, have gone above and beyond to provide adequate benefits, recognition, and care for our family following the loss my husband. I’d like to say thank you today, and always, for the blessings I’ve received from the military, my wonderful friends, and my family. You’ve each in your own special way made this difficult journey a bit easier to bear.
Of the many widows I know, some have been similarly fortunate and some have not. Although we live in a developed country and free society, widows here still face their own set of challenges. All too often, life insurance is simply not enough or didn’t exist at all. Many widows lose their homes, their jobs, and face the difficult task of being the sole provider for their family. Widows also often lose their place in society, losing friends, family, and key people in their support network, as well as their sense of identity, at a time when they need it the most.
On this first International Widows Day, I encourage you to support a widow, both locally and internationally. If you know a widow in your life, reach out. Give her a call, invite her out to dinner, drop by and give her a hug. If you know she is struggling in a particular area, see if there is a way you can help no matter how big or small it may be. And most importantly, let her know you care. Tell her you love her, support her, and will be there for her…and that you will always remember and honor her late spouse. And be sure to check out these links for ways to support widows in other countries. It’s time we fight for full rights and protection of all widows.