home page

Great gifts, great cause, shop our store to support widows.


International Recognition Comes to Widows
by Laura Slap-Shelton, Psy.D.

As the plight of widows in developing countries increasingly gains recognition organizations are formalizing their concern and calling for action. This October The 50th Congress of Liberal International, a global federation of 84 liberal parties from 67 countries and 6 continents which promotes human rights and democracy, social justice, tolerance and equality, adopted their first Resolution on Widows. The 50th Congress of Liberal International brought together approximately 400 delegates from 80 countries around the world at their meeting in Ottawa this fall. Their Resolution on Widows highlights the international significance of status of widows worldwide. It is presented here in a mildly paraphrased format.*

The Resolution notes that the numbers of widows of all ages, across the globe, has rapidly increased in recent years due to HIV/AIDS, armed conflict, ethnic cleansing, persistence of child marriage and age disparity, increased life-expectancy of women over men, and non-remarriage of widows as compared to widowers.

In addition, due to many factors including family break-up, globalization, structural adjustment programs, economic crisis, urbanization, land scarcity, natural disasters and poverty, widows are increasingly less likely to be supported either by the state or by their families. Many countries have no system of national pensions and social security which would automatically provide security to women whose husbands have died.

Liberal International recognizes that in consequence of these factors, increased numbers of older widows are now living alone in destitution. In less wealthy and socially organized countries young widowed mothers, who serve as the sole supporters of their families, are often unskilled workers who are at significant risk for being forced into prostitution. These young, poor, uneducated widows are also at risk for being trafficked as domestic workers. They are often forced by their circumstances to send or sell their children into exploitative child labor and/or, child prostitution. They are forced to withdraw their children from education as they adopt other survival strategies.

Liberal International acknowledges the extensive anecdotal evidence of the extreme poverty, marginalization, violence, deprivation of human rights and social stigma experienced by millions of widows across cultures due to discriminatory legislation, often life-threatening traditions and customs, and harsh discriminatory interpretation of religious laws.

The Resolution on Widows expresses formalized concern that in many countries CEDAW has proved ineffective in protecting widows due to national reservations relating to personal status and traditions. In many countries the ignorance and bias of officials such as police, lawyers and judiciary impede the process of ensuring that international human rights laws are upheld in relation to widows.

The Resolution on Widows calls on Liberal Parties worldwide to promote public and official awareness of the neglect and abuse suffered by the widows in many countries. It calls on Liberal Parties to work to remove the various legal and cultural obstacles in the way of recognizing widows as full and equal citizens en every country. It calls upon Liberal Parties to ensure that all provisions of social welfare, education and family support are enjoyed by widows on the same terms as all other citizens.

* Note: Full text of Resolution on Widows can be found at: http://www.worldlib.org/li/congress/ottawa/index.html

Contact Information for Liberal International: 1 Whitehall Place, London
SW1A 2HD, United Kingdom, Tel: +44.20.78395905, Fax: +44.20.79252685,
E-mail: li@worldlib.org

return to top
return to widows international main page


Copyright information:
All written work on this site is copy righted and reproduced by permission of the author. The articles on this site may be shared for informational purposes, but cannot be reproduced for publication and monetary gain.