"We must erase the social stigmatization and economic deprivation that confronts widows; eliminate their high risk of sexual abuse and exploitation; and remove the barriers to resources and economic opportunities that constrain their future."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Ivorian widows run a small restaurant in Yopougon with the help of the non-governmental organization, Les Compagnes de Ruth. UN Photo/Ky Chung
Absent in statistics, unnoticed by researchers, neglected by national and local authorities and mostly overlooked by civil society organizations – the situation of widows is, in effect, invisible.
Yet abuse of widows and their children constitutes one of the most serious violations of human rights and obstacles to development today. Millions of the world’s widows endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom.
To give special recognition to the situation of widows of all ages and across regions and cultures, the United Nations General Assembly declared 23 June 2011 as the first-ever International Widows’ Day, to be celebrated annually.