|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on International Widows’ Day
Following his participation in a special event on the occasion of the inaugural celebration of International Widows’ Day at United Nations Headquarters in New York today, Raj Loomba, Founder and Chairman Trustee of the Loomba Foundation, thanked United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the international community at large for officially recognizing the day that his foundation had initiated in 2005.
Speaking after the event, Mr. Loomba said the Foundation was created in 1997, and was initially focused on relieving the desperate plight of poor widows and their children in India — and that remained an important objective. However, he came to realize that the problem was by no means confined to India alone.
“I was shocked to discover that widowhood was a huge problem not only in India, but across Africa,” he explained. “They were losing husbands through HIV, through genocide, through conflict, and they were becoming destitute. They were not looked after by Governments or NGOs and they were shunned by society. It’s such a big problem, and yet nothing has been done”. In Africa, the problem was even more deep-rooted than current conflicts and HIV, because attitudes there were founded in traditions and so-called “customary laws”.
Earlier, the panel discussion held to mark the day also included as participants Madam Ban Soon-taek, the Secretary-General’s wife, and Cherie Blair, the President of the Loomba Foundation and the former first lady of the United Kingdom. The event was organized by Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, and Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the First Lady of Gabon.
In his statement to mark the day, Secretary-General Ban urged societies to ease the hardship that widows endure when their husbands die by respecting their rights to such social entitlements as access to inheritance, land tenure, employment and other means of livelihood. “All widows should be protected by the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and other international human rights treaties,” said Mr. Ban. (See Press Release SG/SM/13655.)
The International Day was officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, on a proposal by the Government of Gabon, on 22 December 2010 (document A/RES/65/189). It aims to be an annual global day of action to address the poverty and injustice faced by millions of widows and their dependents in many countries of the world.
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