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International Widows Day 2020: Cherie Blair QC CBE and Amitabh Kant call for widow empowerment

Former First Lady, Cherie Blair QC CBE and Amitabh Kant, CEO Niti Aayog joined The Loomba Foundation to call for coordinated international efforts towards widow empowerment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since widows continue to be one of the most exposed and vulnerable groups, the webinar focused on the possible implications of COVID-19 on them and build global momentum towards social and economic support.
Focusing on the need for government’s support to address this challenge, UN Secretary General António Guterres conveyed that as we work to build back better from this crisis, recovery efforts must be accompanied by long-term structural changes, including ending discriminatory laws that deny women equal rights to men. We also need quality data, broken down by age and sex, to ensure that widows are counted and supported, now and in the future.
Talking about the importance of International Widows Day, Cherie Blair QC CBE, Former First Lady of UK and President, The Loomba Foundation, said, “During COVID-19, there are going to be many newly widowed who will need our support as they fight these challenging times, because they are still disadvantaged in society and face prejudices. Neither they nor their children should be expected to make any sacrifices.”
Amitabh Kant, CEO Niti Aayog, Government of India said, “The COVID-19 lockdown has left widows exposed as a vulnerable group with no access to finance to support their children or themselves. While the Government is responding to the situation by advancing pensions directly to their account, the role of civil societies, voluntary groups and citizens is extremely important.”
Reinforcing the need for immediate international action, Lord Raj Loomba, Founder and Chairman, The Loomba Foundation shared, “As per latest estimates, there are 258 million widowed women globally and the current figures will be much higher especially as COVID19 has exacerbated this situation. It is likely to leave many women newly widowed at a time when they are cut off from their usual socio-economic and family support. The role of local governments to support their welfare cannot be undermined, and the G20 countries must find a way to help support these grassroots efforts.”
Fatima Maada Bio, First Lady, Sierra Leone said, “Traditionally, access to finances and inheritance rights have been the biggest challenges for widows. They not only fight the loss of their partner but are also left isolated and homeless. In our country, apart from COVID-19, we have a history of war and Ebola pandemic that have escalated the situation. As widows continue to be vulnerable, their children and they often also become victims of rape and early marriage.” The webinar was moderated by Harjiv Singh, Founder and CEO, Gutenberg Communications and Trustee of The Loomba Foundation.
In 2005 the Loomba Foundation launched International Widows Day at the House of Lords in the UK, as an effective day of action for widows and their children around the world. After a tireless campaign, the UN adopted 23rd June as the UN International Widows Day at its 65th UN General Assembly in 2010. 23rd June is a significant day as it was on this day Lord Loomba’s mother, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, became a widow in Punjab in India in 1954.
Since 2010, IWD has been a reminder for concerted efforts dedicated to highlighting and combating the discrimination and injustice faced by widows worldwide, the IWD has helped to expand efforts by concerned individuals and organisations to positively impact the lives of widows worldwide.
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