‘UN Resolution on the Situation of Widows is a Milestone!’ – Margaret Owen, OBE
By Margaret Owen, OBE – Founder and President of Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD)
It is indeed a triumph to see this Resolution on the Situation of Widows adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the 15th March 2022 at the CSW66 (The sixty-sixth session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women).
We have been trying for decades to obtain this important acknowledgement of the dire status of widows, especially those in Fragile and Conflict-Afflicted States (FACs).
It makes our 27-year long struggle worthwhile, since our first ever international meeting held at the NGO forum at the Beijing Fourth World Women’s Conference in 1995.
I subsequently drafted the basic text for a Resolution on widowhood which the International Council of Women presented to the UN in 2006.
We must thank the African Group and especially Nigeria and Sierra Leone for their great work in proposing this resolution.
WPD also praises the Global Fund for Widows for their role in bringing together these countries and other Member States to support it.
Of course UN Resolutions are not binding on Member States. They have a symbolic, moral rather than legal weight. They are not international laws. But they do offer substantial leverage to civil society and human rights organisations to lobby, pressurise their governments to comply with what they have agreed to.
This Resolution is a powerful tool with which to remind governments of their obligations and I hope it will at least ensure that they start filling the great gap in data on widowhood, register widows and listen to their voices. I see it as having a far greater potential for promoting the status of widows than any “Agreed Conclusions” emerging from CSW sessions.
Deeply disappointing, to me actually scandalous, has been the regular omissions of any adequate mentions of widowhood in years of these CSW documents, despite intensive efforts by NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to improve the text; and despite evidence of the ever rising numbers of widows of all ages due to armed conflict and Covid and their worsening poverty and vulnerability to extreme violence and human rights violations, now further exacerbated by climate change and environmental disasters.
We have still many mountains to climb but this Resolution provides us with a strong building block to stand on as we redouble our efforts to secure for widows their enjoyment of their full human rights.
I am hopeful that this milestone event will galvanise support for the inclusion, in the CSW66 Agreed Conclusions, of references to widows.
Widows are too often disproportionately affected by climate change, but they must also be recognised as key players, agents of change, in safeguarding the natural environment and finding remedies to the many problems arising from global warming, conflict, Covid and Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs).
This Resolution will give much confidence to our widow NGOs and WPD Partners and help them to better state their case to their governments.
This is a positive step forward and we will continue to do our utmost ensure that the voices of widows of all ages, throughout the world, are heard at the highest levels.