Stories

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On International Widows’ Day, 23 June, take a look at some of the issues affecting widows around the world and what must be done to safeguard and advance their rights.
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Women have been hit harder by the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic as more women work in low-paying, insecure and informal jobs. This includes migrant domestic workers. Nan Zar Ni Myint is a domestic worker from Myanmar and a volunteer in her community based in Bangkok, Thailand. She has mobilized her network of domestic workers to support other domestic workers in Thailand, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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In an effort to support mothers in Sri Lanka, where many work in informal employment, UN provided emergency relief packages to female-headed households in Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts alongside a local NGO. Over 1,300 women heads of households economically impacted by the pandemic were supported through the initiative.
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As Latin America enters a critical phase of the COVID-19 emergency, recently surpassing 5 million cases and 200,000 deaths , women domestic workers are raising alarm about the lack of economic relief, healthcare and other social protection, and organizing in solidarity to help other workers.
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Gulbahor Majidova’s life has been full of losses. But she has not let that deter her from becoming an activist in her community and a leader in advancing the reform of the civil registration system in Tajikistan.
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In a statement for International Widows Day, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka writes: "Widows must not be left out of our work to “build back better” from COVID-19. Let us ensure that our recovery prioritizes their unique needs and supports societies to be more inclusive, resilient and equal for all".
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Ana Paula Soares, 27, has been her family’s breadwinner since 2017. When the COVID-19 crisis came to Timor-Leste, she lost her income as a domestic worker with no way to support her family. Her story reflects the hardship that millions of women now face, as workers in the informal economy.
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Millions of Indonesians working abroad now have hard-won legal protection against exploitation, thanks to the work of pioneering campaigners
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Ensuring that women know their rights as migrant workers, including what should be in their employment contracts, is a crucial step in protecting them from abuse and exploitation – especially since some are not aware that their rights are being violated.
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On this International Widows' Day, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka calls to recognize widows in all their diversity, and acknowledge the need to integrate them fully and visibly into work on gender equality so that we break cycles of poverty and disadvantage and ensure that all widows can enjoy their full human rights.
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Maher Khalifi, a young Tunisian engineer, has developed a project that improves the coverage of Tunisia’s social protection system for rural women. The Tunisian Government has agreed to use a new application dubbed "Ahmini", which should allow 500,000 rural women to be integrated into social assistance system, allowing them access to benefits such as pensions. He is attending the Tunis Forum on Gender Equality (24 – 26 April), co-hosted by the Governments of Sweden and Tunisia in collaboration with UNDP and UN Women. The Forum is the first of many global meetings leading up to the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action.
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After two weeks of intense dialogue, the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63) concluded today in New York with a strong commitment by UN Member States to safeguard and improve women’s and girls’ access to social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure, ensuring that their design and delivery is transformed to prevent discrimination and create a ‘level playing field’ for women and girls.
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In Cabo Verde, more than a quarter of all employed women (26 per cent) are domestic workers, many of whom work without contracts, without recognition as formal workers and the social protections that come with formal jobs. For instance, domestic workers are unable to enrol in the National Institute of Social Security and do not have access to pensions when they retire or health coverage for them and their children.
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Aleeza Hafeez from Sialkot, one of Pakistan’s most industrialized areas, has her own income for the first time. Knowing her own rights and an enabling environment at the workplace made it possible for her to work and grow as a professional. The project has changed family dynamics too. Now, Hafeez’s father includes her when making family decisions, a role previously reserved for male members.
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Moni Rani Das, born and raised in a “cleaners’ colony”—poor and segregated settlements where street cleaners and domestic workers live—in Dhaka, Bangladesh, never imagined that she would be advocating for her rights and those of nearly 3 million Dalit [1] women of her country. Today, she is the first Dalit person to be part of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh.
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Beena Pallical is the Executive Director at the Asia Dalit Rights Forum and the current Manager of a programme seeking to strengthen Dalit Women’s Economic Rights across South Asia. The Dalit community in this region is still considered the lowest of the historical castes and suffers widespread discrimination, despite recent legislation and initiatives. Within the community, the specific problem of women’s economic empowerment has received little attention, but is now the focus of a two-year programme funded by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality.
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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.
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On the occasion of International Widows’ Day, we must consider both the vital role widows play in our society, the ways in which gender inequality impacts their ability to thrive on their own, and the specific recognition and attention that they need from all of us.
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UN Women, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called today for increased efforts to eradicate gender inequality in nationality laws, which is a key driver of statelessness.
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Olivier Mukuta, a social innovator who grew up in a refugee camp is working to create blockchain technology solutions to help empower women in humanitarian crisis situations.