According to the United Nations, abuse of widows and their children constitutes one of the most serious violations of human rights and obstacles to development today.

As the world celebrates the 2016 International Widow’s Day, on Thursday, June 23, the United Nations says empowering widows through access to adequate healthcare, education, decent work, full participation in decision-making and public life, and lives free of violence and abuse, would give them a chance to build a secure life after bereavement.

Millions of the world’s widows endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom.

For this reason, June 23rd of every year is used as an avenue to recognise the plight of widows of all ages and across regions and cultures.

The date was declared by the the United Nations General Assembly in December 2010. The first-ever International Widows’ Day was celebrated on the 23rd of June 2011.

UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda with its pledge to leave no one behind has a particular resonance for widows, who are among the most marginalised and isolated.

There are about 259 million widows around the world, and nearly half are living in poverty.

Widows are often stigmatised by their families and communities. Many suffer discrimination based on age and gender. Some have lived lives marred by physical and sexual abuse.

International Widows Day is an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights and recognition for widows – too long invisible, uncounted and ignored.

Author: Ope Adedeji