Woman inside a house with a solar lamp

Secretary General's message - 2020

This year’s International Widows Day takes place as the number of deaths from COVID-19 continues to rise in many places, especially for men. This an opportune moment to focus on an all-too-often forgotten dimension of the crisis — the lives and futures of the widows left behind.

The death of a partner at any time can leave many women without rights to inheritance or property. In times of a pandemic, these losses are often multiplied for widows and accompanied by stigma and discrimination. The unprecedented levels of isolation and economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 crisis can further compromise widows’ ability to support themselves and their families, cutting them off from social connection at a time of profound grief.

As we strive to address COVID-19, governments must work to include support for widows’ immediate needs in fiscal stimulus programmes, for instance through access to cash transfers. And 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 and ensuring the availability of social protection, so that women do not start out at a disadvantage. We also need quality data, broken down by age and sex, to ensure that widows are counted and supported, now and in the future.

On this International Widows Day, let us strengthen communities, value families and rebuild societies that support widows in all their diversity.

The unprecedented levels of isolation and economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 crisis can further compromise widows’ ability to support themselves and their families, cutting them off from social connection at a time of profound grief.

António Guterres