United Nations: In order to address the
plight of widows worldwide, the UN General Assembly has
declared June 23 as International Widows Day.
This rare designation of an international day of
recognition by the UN follows independent verification of
shocking levels of violence and deprivation faced by hundreds
and millions of widows around the world.
The resolution, approved by the 192 representatives of
the Third Committee of the General Assembly, was a passionate
personal initiative of Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the First Lady of
UK-based Loomba Foundation had been campaigning for it at
the UN for the past several years.
Cherie Blair, wife of the former British Prime Minister,
is its president, while Raj Loomba is its founder and
"Widows are everywhere in the world, yet in many
countries, they are nowhere to be seen or heard. They are
hidden in the shadows, denied their basic rights and dignity.
This resolution aims to shine a light on these women and
their children, and put moral pressure on the guardians of the
retrograde traditions that oppress them," said Madame Ondimba.
"We are so very grateful to our dear friends President
Ali Bongo Ondimba and his wife Sylvia Bongo Ondimba of Gabon
for their leadership in actively pushing the issue of widows
within the UN agenda," said Cherie Blair.
"None of this would have been possible without their
unfailing support. We take so much of our quality of life for
granted. For poor widows, recognition of basic legal and human
rights can make all the difference to a life of abject
misery," she said in a statement.
Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Permanent Representative of
Gabon to the UN, introduced the resolution following
publication of "Invisible Forgotten Sufferers," a report
issued by the Loomba Foundation, which found that almost 60
million widows live in extreme poverty where basic needs go
Widowhood precipitates a host of other social ills such
as malnutrition, deteriorating health, starvation and physical
insecurity, such as rape and risk of HIV/AIDS.
During the recent UN General Assembly meetings in New
York, Madame Bongo Ondimba and Blair in her capacity as
president of the Loomba Foundation helped rally the
international community behind the resolution.
Loomba who was elated regarding the passage of the
resolution said, "I saw my own mother suffer after my father
died of tuberculosis.
As soon as my father stopped breathing my mother also
stopped being an individual," he said.
"My grandmother ordered my mother who was still a young
woman--to remove her jewelry and bindi (a sign for married
women on their forehead) and only wear white clothes.
She was belittled and ostracized. She lived in this
shadow for 37 years until her death," Loomba said.
"I started this charity and began this journey in honour
of my mother, and with the passage of International Widows Day
we can help widows worldwide so that they do not suffer the
injustices my mother had inflicted upon her".
Loomba said, adding that the dream of his life has come