CSW: The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 
CEDAW:The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Submitted with Association of War Affected Women, Gray Panthers, Guild of Service, WRI, Mama Zimbi Foundation, NAWO, WHR-SWG, WiLPF, all NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC

Oral statement to the 60th CSW on the priority theme:

Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development in the context of widowhood

Never in world history have we seen such an unprecedented increase in the numbers of widows, of all ages, and wives of the “missing” due to armed conflict, sectarian strife, natural disasters, HIV and AIDs, and harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage to far older men.

In many developing countries, widows are regarded as “inauspicious”, and in spite of new laws enacted to implement international conventions such as the CEDAW are unable to access justice systems to obtain their fundamental rights. For example, to inheritance, land ownership, credit, and access to education and training for income-generation.

Widows are often the poorest of poor women and forced, for survival, to remove their children from education, to depend upon child labor, and this poverty is driving an increase in child marriage and vulnerability to traffickers. The daughters of widows are likely to become child widows themselves.

Widows were consistently “left behind” in the Beijing Platform for Action, nor was their status addressed in strategies to implement the MDGs. Even UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security are silent on the challenging issues of widowhood in conflict and post conflict environments.

Widows are victims of violence in many different forms (physical, psychological, sexual, torture and killing for instance, in the context of witchcraft accusations), yet shockingly, these practices received no mention in the 2013 CSW Agreed Conclusions on Eliminating Violence to Women.

Globally too the demographic map is changing with many more people reaching extreme old age and the majority of older people are women, and many of these are widows, who, even in developed countries, in the present austerity climate, live below the poverty line as their pensions no longer can provide them with a decent life.

It is imperative now that in implementing the 2015 SDGS Governments address the cross-cutting issues of WIDOWHOOD because this is a root cause of poverty expanding across the generations. Poverty promotes the inequalities that fuel future unrest and conflict. They need to fill the gap in data on this issue and support widows to band together so they can articulate their needs and describe their all important roles in their families and in the community.

Failing to address this neglected gender and human rights issue would be economic madness, as well as a violation of international standards on gender equality and human rights which they are obligated to comply with.