Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for International Widows’ Day, observed on 23 June:
International Widows’ Day invites us to consider the economic hardship and increased vulnerability that these bereaved women can face.
In the absence of social and legal protection, widowed women’s lifetime earnings and savings are often too little to avoid poverty. Even in countries with good pension coverage, women are significantly more likely to suffer poverty in old age than men. Social services are particularly important for older widows who may live alone or have greater need for elderly care services.
In many countries, widows do not have the same inheritance rights as their male counterparts, meaning that they may be stripped of land, property and even rights and access to their own children. Even where laws do not discriminate, those rights need to be equally applied and enjoyed in practice.
In addition, the marginalization, ill-treatment and violence widows suffer in some societies, including sexual abuse and harassment or forced remarriage, must be addressed, including by tackling the norms that are used to justify such discriminatory cultural practices and violence.
The situation of widows is particularly acute in situations of conflict and natural disaster, where numbers increase, vulnerabilities exacerbated through loss and displacement, and social and legal protections are often weak.
On this international day, let us reaffirm our commitment to supporting all widows, regardless of age, location, or legal system, and ensuring that they are not left out or left behind.