UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Message of Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women in commemoration of International Widows’ Day

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Date: 22 June 2012

Every human being has the right to live in dignity with equal rights and opportunities to realize their potential. This is the second year that the United Nations observes International Widows' Day to raise awareness and action to end the abuse, neglect and discrimination faced by widows in many parts of the world.

Of the estimated 245 million widows worldwide, 115 million live in poverty and suffer from social stigmatization and economic deprivation because they have lost their husbands. Many widows are denied their rights—from being evicted from their homes because they cannot inherit property or land, to being forced into exploitative sex work to support themselves and their families because they have nowhere else to turn.

Together we must promote gender equality and women's rights and empowerment. Economic empowerment means that widows have equal rights to inheritance, property, land and other assets. Supporting the well being and livelihoods of widows and their children means that they have equal access to housing, food, water, health care services, education, and training. Social protection programmes can provide support to cope with crisis and insecurity.

UN Women calls on Governments to remove all barriers in laws and practice that target widows specifically and limit their opportunities. Governments must take all measures to ensure that widows can enjoy equal economic, political and social rights and are able to live lives free of discrimination, fear and want.

UN Women is committed to working with Governments, civil society and other partners to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women - single, married, divorced and widowed.