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Widows day to be observed today

June 23, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Like other countries, Pakistan will observe the International Widows Day on Monday.

The United Nations-ratified day is observed each year on June 23 to address poverty and injustice faced by millions of widows and their dependants all over the world.

Pakistan is among countries where widows face different forms of discrimination. They are cheated out of their inheritance which is guaranteed by the law and bullied by members of their family. They are often considered inauspicious.

Worldwide, an estimated 115 million widows currently live in poverty and 81m have suffered abuse, some of them by members of their own family.

Stating that young widows who were child brides face great risks with little protection, the United Nations has underlined the need for action to end discrimination against widows so they can live in dignity and enjoy equal rights, opportunities and full participation in society.

“Today, we call for stronger action to end widespread discrimination against widows,” said a statement issued by the UN.

It said widows were more than victims; they were mothers, care-givers and heads of households. Widows of all ages and their children should be treated as full and equal citizens and their rights should be protected.

National laws and policies should be guided by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“No woman should lose her rights when she loses her husband — but an estimated 115m widows live in poverty, and 81m have suffered physical abuse. Girls married to much older men are especially vulnerable. Let us use International Widows Day to advocate for the rights of all widows so they can enjoy better lives and realise their great potential to contribute to our world,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message.

In Pakistan, the government provides financial assistance to widows and orphans through Zakat, Baitul Maal and Benazir Income Support Programme. The country’s National Savings has a special scheme to benefit widows.

Besides, Pakistan has one of the highest rates of philanthropy in the world and widows are one of the main beneficiaries of charity.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014