Press Releases

    For information only - not an official document

    22 June 2015

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

    Message on International Widows Day

    23 June 2015

    VIENNA, 23 June (UN Information Service) - Creating a world with greater equality for generations to come is the defining challenge of our times. This is especially urgent for women, who often experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Their age, income, ethnicity, disabilities and other factors can put women at greater risk of injustice.

    Widows are particularly vulnerable. Many are aging and may not have worked outside of the home. The death of their partner can leave them in precarious living conditions, particularly in areas of conflict, natural disaster and humanitarian crisis.

    International Widows' Day is an opportunity to assert the rights of those whose bereavement is followed by exclusion, abuse or the loss of homes, livelihoods and social standing.

    In societies that view women as whole only when they are married, widows are often disregarded or stigmatized. Without the economic and social protection of their husbands, many widows are treated as financial burdens by their families. They may lose their rights to inheritance and property, or even be forced out of their communities.

    These human rights violations stem from the unjust view that women have diminished value. On International Widows' Day, we reassert the equality of men and women.

    The United Nations is working on specific measures that can help widows, and I urge other partners to join these efforts.

    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. We also must advance widows' equal rights to inheritance, property, land and other assets.

    On International Widows' Day, let us resolve to end discriminatory attitudes and take action to ensure that widows of all ages enjoy equal human rights, including the right to shape their own future and to participate fully in society. This will be an essential element in realizing our vision of a life of dignity for all.

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