Around the world there are over 258 million widows*, and according to the Loomba Foundation , almost one in ten live in extreme poverty. In parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, around 50% of women are believed to be widows.
In parts of the world, widows:
According to the census, there were just over 2 million widows in England in 2020. In the UK, an estimated 1.5 million widows lost out on pension income after bereavement, with almost 60% seeing a major drop in income. It was only in February 2023 that unmarried cohabiting parents could claim bereavement benefits. Cohabiting partners without children are still not eligible for benefits.
The origins of International Women's Day
On 23 June 1954, Raj Loomba's mother, Pushpa Wati, became a widow at the age of 37. That very day, she was ordered to remove her bangles, jewellery and bindi, which gave her the status of a married woman, and wear white for the rest of her life. When Raj Loomba, who was ten at the time of his father's death, got married to Veena Chaudhry, the priest told him that his mother had to sit away from the alter in case she brought bad luck to the couple.
Five years after his mother died, Loomba and his wife set up the Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba Trust (now the Lomba Foundation) to support widows and their children. The Foundation created International Widow's Day in 2005, and in 2010 the United Nations declared 23 June to be a United Nations day of action to highlight and combat discrimination and injustice suffered by widows worldwide.
What we can do to safeguard and advance widows’ rights
From The UN Women explainer on what you should know about widowhood:
*While The Widows Handbook usually uses 'widow' as a non-gendered term, this piece talks about female widows
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.