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International Widows Day celebrates tenth anniversary

PULLING THROUGH TOGETHER: Widows from Côte d'Ivoire run a small restaurant in Yopougon with the help of a non-governmental organisation

AS INTERNATIONAL Widows Day celebrates its 10th anniversary today (Jun 23), a leading Lord has called on the United Nations (UN) to do more to help some of the world’s most vulnerable women.

Lord Loomba launched International Widows Day on the 23 June 2005 having witnessed his own mother struggle to support her children after the sudden death of her husband.

He remains staunch in his hope to have the issue – which affects more than 258 million widows worldwide - addressed in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which will be finalised later this year.

Lord Loomba feels that ten years on, the issue is still too easily swept under the carpet, leaving many living as modern slaves, punished and dehumanised – discriminated not only economically, but also socially.

To combat this the organisation has launched a string of initiatives to enable women to take back control of their own lives through education and training.

This year’s focus is empowering more than 5,000 widows in Varanasi (known as ‘The Widow’s City), interviewing each regarding their desired career path, before making this a reality through extensive training, leaving them with employable skills and able to care for themselves and their families.

Through doing so, the cycle of poverty can be broken, with 10 people benefitting from every widow they assist, according to research from the University of Northampton. By extending this support to all widows more than a billion people could benefit globally.

JUNE 23: International Widows Day is celebrating its 10th anniversary

Over the past decade a number of high-profile figures have leant their backing including David Cameron, Bill Clinton, Cherie Blair, Ban Ki Moon and Yoko Ono and Lord Loomba hopes many more leading figures will back the cause in coming years.

Lord Loomba said he feels that whilst substantial progress has been made over the past decade, substantially more must be done to ensure women and their children across the world are given a fair chance at life after the death of a partner.

He said: “Millions of women face the double-discrimination of widowhood - both economic and social - on a daily basis and whilst I am proud of the steps we have taken over the past decade, and the political support the cause has gained, we will not rest until the plight of widows worldwide is addressed by the UN.

“The issue is one which is too easily ignored and I ask in an age where we celebrate International Women’s Day, how can we still turn our back on widows who suffer across the globe?

“We will continue to campaign for the rights of the most vulnerable - those women and children cut off by society and fearing for their futures, simple because they have lost a loved one.”

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