Today, June 23, is the International Widows Day. As the world marks the International Widows Day today, Edo State Government through the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Issues joins the rest of the global community to celebrate the widows in the state.

The International Widows Day is celebrated annually on 23rd of June. It is a day set aside by the United Nations to give recognition to the situation of widows of all ages across the globe.

The theme for this year’s International Widows Day is “Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”. The theme aims to help widows realise the importance of embracing technological knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently utilize opportunities in today’s world.

International Widows Day is significant because it raises awareness about widows’ issues and advocates for better facilities and opportunities for them. It is a day to acknowledge the struggle of widowed women and aims to amplify the voices of widows that face injustice, discrimination, poverty, social stigmatization and health issues.

For many women around the world, the devastating loss of a partner is magnified by a long-term fight for their basic rights and dignity. Widows have historically been left unseen, unsupported, and unmeasured in our societies.

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Experience and records from the past show that widows are often denied inheritance rights, have their property grabbed after the death of a partner, and can face extreme stigma and discrimination, as perceived ‘carriers’ of disease. Worldwide, women are much less likely to have access to old age pensions than men, so the death of a spouse can lead to destitution for older women. With lone-mother families and single older women already particularly vulnerable to poverty, this is an area that needs urgent attention.

Now more than ever, this day is an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights and recognition for widows. This includes providing them with information on access to a fair share of their inheritance, land and productive resources; pensions and social protection that are not based on marital status alone; decent work and equal pay; and education and training opportunities. Empowering widows to support themselves and their families also means addressing social stigmas that create exclusion, and discriminatory or harmful practices.

This is a call for all stakeholders to support government in taking action to uphold its commitments in ensuring the rights of widows are protected through the implementation of existing laws, such as the VAPP Law, and creating programmes and projects for poverty alleviation, education and health care for them and their dependants.

Let’s join hands in building a society that supports inclusivity, resilience and equality for all; a society that ensures priorities are given to the unique needs of widows.