Our Founder – Margaret Owen, OBE
Margaret Owen is a widely acclaimed and celebrated womens’ rights activist.
Margaret brings to Widows for Peace Through Democracy an astounding range of experience gleaned from an extraordinary career path. Born in 1932, the daughter of a solicitor and a doctor, Margaret studied law at Cambridge.
After qualifying as a barrister, Margaret also worked on television documentaries and has a degree in anthropology as well as a Diploma in Social Administration from LSE.
At every stage of her distinguished career Margaret has used her legal expertise and outstanding advocacy skills to benefit the most vulnerable worldwide. She has worked as a lawyer for the UK Immigrants Advisory Service; legally represented US Vietnam War draft avoiders; headed the Law and Policy division of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF); been a founder member of GAPS-UK (Gender Action on Peace and Security), and monitored trials and elections in Turkey. Margaret is adviser on women and children’s rights to the KHRP (Kurdish Human Rights Project), as well as being a Patron of Peace in Kurdistan.
But it was only after the death of her husband in 1990 that Margaret learnt, while teaching judicial administration to Commonwealth magistrates and hosting a Malawian mother with her sick baby, of the horrifying plight of widows overseas -particularly in conflict and AIDS afflicted countries. This led her to found Widows for Peace Through Democracy, the first international organisation to comprehensively address human rights issues in the context of widowhood.
In 2013 Margaret received an O.B.E for her contribution to the advancement of women’s human rights, and particularly for her pioneering work on widows’ rights. She continues to be a regular participant at the UN Commission on the Status of Women and plays a key role in consulting on widowhood issues to the UN. In addition to her own publications, Margaret`s inspirational work has been celebrated in numerous articles and interviews, some of which are listed below.
- On International Widows’ Day, Boris Johnson must add action to his words
The Guardian (UK) 23 June 2021.
- Sally Mugabe should never be forgotten.
The Guardian (UK) 8 Sept 2019.
- UK must help the ‘half-widows’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Guardian (UK) 13 August 2019.
- The miracle of Rojava.
UNA-UK Magazine 1-2017, The Syria Issue.
- WACUNA: Margaret Owen OBE on the cost of neglecting widowhood.
- Gender and justice in an emerging nation: My impressions of Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan.
Ceasefire. February 11, 2014.
- Margaret Owen and Laura Castellan.
Issues of discrimination in widowhood in Sierra Leone that require addressing in the context of CEDAW.
Published online by Widows for Peace through Democracy. 2014
- Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD). Submission to CEDAW General Discussion on “Access to Justice”.
Recommendations with reference to widows accessing justice. CEDAW, 55th Session. July 2013
- CSW: will there be an Agreed Conclusion to the CSW this year? – 11 March 2013.
- CSW: the gulf between the UN and civil society – 7 March 2013.
- The hidden lives of child widows – 28 February 2012.
- Egypt: from equality of purpose to equality on the ground – 1 March 2011.
- Turkey’s judgement day: the trial of the Kurds – 11 November 2010.
- New York: no place for women in action – 8 March 2010.
- Disillusionment, Anger and Protest – 3 March 2010.
- The mother of all widows – 2 March 2010.
- Widowhood: invisible for how much longer? – 28 February 2010.
- CSW and the Brief History of One Word. – 17 March 2009.
- Fighting for the very poorest of the poor – 13 March 2009.
- Out of the Past, The Guardian, 24 April 2006.
- A World of Widows – book by Margaret Owen, 1996.
- ‘Widows, Feminism and the Kurdish Women’s Movement’. Interview with Margaret.- May 2021.
- Margaret Owen speaking at the CSW65 virtual forum – Mar 2021
- Interview with Margaret Owen. Part of Dr Davina Lloyd’s CEDAW People’sTribunal interview series – Sept 2020.
- Margaret Owen at the NGO CSW/NY – Mar 22, 2018
- WPD at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict – Aug 13, 2014
Interviews, News and Biographies
- Margaret Owen interviewed on BBC Woman’s Hour about her hunger strike to raise awareness of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. – 30th Nov 2021
- Margaret Owen on Hunger Strike for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Fila.org.uk – 22nd Nov 2021.
- Margaret Owen OBE – by Annabel Twose, Project Coordinator of First 100 Years – 1st June 2018
- 87-year-old from West London joins hunger strike in protest against treament of Kurdish MP – 7 APR 2019
- Guns, Widows, & What You Don’t Hear About Syria (2014)
- Outsiders in London – Margaret Owen OBE – 23rd Sept 2013