Subject: [fem-women2000 381] Statement on Widowhood to the UNGASS
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 06:45:18 -0500
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 From: "liz" <>
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 Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 16:13:21 +0200
 Subject: [B5NGONEWS] Statement on Widowhood to the UNGASS

Statement on Widowhood to the UNGASS

Statement on Widowhood to the UNGASS
Friday 9th June 2000

We wish to draw the attention of governments to one vast category of women,
struggling to survive across regions and cultures, who have been utterly
neglected by this PFA; and, unless immediate action is taken, will be
invisible in the Outcome document. They are the poorest of the poor, the
most oppressed, violated and invisible and their voices are the most

We are speaking of WIDOWS. The issues affecting their lives cut across every
one of the 12 critical areas of the PFA yet they are barely mentioned except
in the context of aging. Millions of widows are young mothers, some still
children, all subject to extreme discriminatory practices and victims of
neglect by governments.

The gross human rights violations they experience in many areas of their
lives have implications for the whole of society and development in general
which cannot be ignored. Their poverty, often due to lack of inheritance and
land rights or social support systems aggravates their vulnerability to

The huge increases in the numbers of widows due to AIDS, armed conflict and
ethnic cleansing, has resulted in many millions of children being withdrawn
>from school because of destitution. The vulnerability of widows' daughers
and child widows is especially severe, forcing them into unsuitable early
marriage and early widowhood, life on the streets, prostitution and other
high risk activities such as servile domestic service in the context of
trafficking and HIV/AIDS infection.

Governments have done little to ensure that WIDOWS obtain their human rights
to inheritance and land ownership. They are accountable for omitting to
protect widows from gross mental, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated for
example, through coercive traditionial practices such as degrading and
life-threatening mourning rites; or resulting from cruel accusations of
witchcraft leading to their brutal murder. Across cultures widows are
"chased off" from their homes, robbed of their property and have no access
to justice systems because these violations occur within the private sphere
of the family.

WE call upon governments of the world to:

* Make a clear commitment to listen to widows' voices, to gather information
and data to tackle the issues of widowhood so as to ensure that policies
accommodate their human rights.

* Ensure that legal reforms in inheritance and land ownership are
implemented and enforced and take precedence over discriminatory customary

* Cease using "tradition" as an excuse for their ommission to protect widows
>from criminal acts committed within the family

* Punish perpetrators of widow-abuse

* Recognize that widows are key members of civil society by eliminating all
discriminatory obstacles to their empowerment.

Finally, we request that governments, bearing in mind how widespread,
serious and urgent is this issue, agree to a special paragraph on widowhood
to be inserted in the Outcome document on Further Actions.

Sara Longwe - African Women's Development Network
Margaret Owen - Empowering Widows in Development

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