“Widows Often Stigmatized, Suffer Discrimination Based on Age and Gender”

Human Wrongs Watch

With nearly half the world’s 259 million widows living poverty, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 23 June 2016 urged greater efforts to “make them more visible in our societies” and ensure they are a vital part of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda’s pledge to ‘leave no one behind.’

Ivorian widows run a small restaurant in Yopougon with the help of the non-governmental organization, Les Compagnes de Ruth. UN Photo/Ky Chung

“Widows are often stigmatized by their families and communities. Many suffer discrimination based on age and gender. Some have lived lives marked by physical and sexual abuse,” noted Ban in his message for International Widows’ Day.

Recalling that nearly half of the 259 million widows around the world live in poverty, the Secretary-General explained that they face economic challenges and have very limited economic opportunities.

“Older widows often have few economic assets, after a lifetime of hard but unpaid work. Even in developed countries, the value of women’s pensions can be some 40 per cent lower than men’s,” said Ban stressing on the difficulties faced them.

He also noted that younger widows face added challenges as heads of households with childcare responsibilities.


In India, members of a network of single women, Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, that helps secure the right of widows to live with dignity and justice. UN Women/Gaganjit Singh (File)

The Secretary-General further said that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its pledge to leave no one behind has a particular resonance for widows, who are among the most marginalized and isolated.

“On International Widows’ Day, let us pledge to make widows more visible in our societies, and to support them in living productive, equal and fulfilling lives,” Ban concluded.

To give special recognition to the situation of widows of all ages and across regions and cultures, the UN General Assembly, in 2010, declared 23 June as International Widows’ Day. (Source: UN).

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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