The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 67 – https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw67-2023 – is currently taking place in New York, and Soroptimists from all five Federations are taking part.
Blog by Helen Porter, SI Winchester and District on “Widows Rights”
This was a fascinating side event of CSW67. I learnt about the intersectionality of widowhood and how the toxic triad of discrimination, disinheritance and harmful practices (such as forced remarriage to an in-law) disadvantages so many widows globally and deprives them of their rights.
Many widows suffer from poverty, food insecurity, a lack of decent work and violence. They are unable to access the sustainable development goals (SDGs), advocacy, justice and representation.
There are structural barriers to accessing capital including no collateral and no male to co-sign a loan or act as a guarantor. 70% of widows in developing countries want and need better access to capital and work. There are some schemes that can assist them e.g. WISALA (Widows Savings and Loan Association) and The Dream Save app used for informal community banks and savings groups. These schemes facilitate the management of financial records and the attainment of savings goals for groups of widows. They also provide digital literacy and routes into decent work. The impact of projects that enable widows to access capital and start businesses can be immense. For example, the Brookbank project in Kenya resulted in an over 2000% increase in monthly income for the participating widows and a 200% increase in educational spending on their children in just one year. All of the participating widows reported significant increases in their confidence, respect and control over their daily decisions.
As soroptimists, how can we help?
Be aware that a Widowhood Resolution was adopted by the UNGA on 15 March 2022.
Raise awareness of International Widows’ Day that is observed by the UN on 23 June each year.
Consider micro-financing support for a group of widows.