Life after loss: Rights, dignity and justice for widows

Friday, 22 June 2018

Worldwide | UN Women

The loss of a partner is devastating. For many women, that loss is magnified by a long-term struggle for basic needs, their human rights and dignity. They may be denied inheritance rights to the piece of land that they relied on for livelihood or evicted from their homes, forced into unwanted marriages or traumatizing widowhood rituals. They are stigmatized for life, shunned and shamed. And, many of these abuses go unnoticed, even normalized.

Right now, there are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty. As women, they have specific needs, but their voices and experiences are often absent from policies that impact their survival.

The United Nations observes 23 June as International Widows Day, to draw attention to the voices and experiences of widows and to galvanize the unique support that they need.

Today we bring you the voices of some widows we have worked with, as they push through the barriers in pursuit of a life with dignity, joy and aspirations.

“I hope that my daughters find inspiration in my story”—Maha Aasi Emm Ala’a, Syria

Maha is a Syrian refugee in her 40s who came to the UN Women-run women’s centre in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp after her husband passed away. She was struggling with severe depression after losing her partner, overwhelmed at the prospect of providing for herself and her children on her own. At the Women’s Oasis, Maha now works as a tailor and has also found a network of women to support her emotionally.

“Not only has the women’s Oasis enabled me to provide for my children, it has become my sanctuary. Surrounded by women of my age who are also overcoming similar situations, we became each other's support system and friends,” Maha says. “I hope that my daughters find inspiration in my story, seeing how far I have come as a woman, despite the circumstances.”

Read the rest of her story and those of others from the UN Women website.

And see the statement by the Executive Director of UN Women for International Widows’ Day.