UN declares June 23 as International Widows Day
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Last Updated: Wednesday, December 22, 2010, 18:47
  
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 Gabon.

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 chairman.

"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 unmet.

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 true.

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010, 18:47


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