International widows Day
Invisible Women, Invisible Problems
The loss of a partner is devastating. For many women around the world, especially in developing countries, that loss is magnified by a long-term struggle for their basic needs, their human rights and dignity.
The pandemic has just worsened the situation during the past several months with a devastating human loss, and one that is likely leaving tens of thousands of women newly widowed at just the time when they are cut off from their usual socio-economic and family supports.
Experience from past pandemics, for example HIV/AIDS and Ebola, shows that widows are often denied inheritance rights, have their property grabbed after the death of a partner, and can face extreme stigma and discrimination, as perceived ‘carriers’ of disease. Worldwide, women are much less likely to have access to old age pensions than men, so the death of a spouse can lead to destitution for older women. In the context of lockdowns and economic closures, widows may not have access to bank accounts and pensions to pay for healthcare if they too become ill or to support themselves and their children. With lone-mother families and single older women already particularly vulnerable to poverty, this is an area that needs urgent attention.
There are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty. But, the actual number is likely to be much higher and to grow further as the coronavirus and its related effects on health continue to rage around the world. As women they have specific needs, but their voices and experiences are often absent from policies that impact their survival.
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- 2016 Brexit referendum: United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union