|Statement on Widowhood to the UNGASS |
Friday 9th June 2000
WomenAction 2000 | Live @ the UNGASS!
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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 unheard.
We are speaking of WIDOWS. The issues affecting their lives cut across everyWe 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 violence.
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the numbers of widows due to AIDS, armed conflict and ethnic cleansing, has resulted in many millions of children being withdrawn from school because of destitution.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 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:
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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