115 mn widows live in poverty: Loomba Foundation study | world | Hindustan Times
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115 mn widows live in poverty: Loomba Foundation study

At least 245 million women around the world have been widowed with India alone accounting for 42.4 million. And more than 115 million widows live in devastating poverty, according to a new study released by Britain's Loomba Foundation, which is campaigning to put the plight of widows on the United Nations agenda.

world Updated: Jul 01, 2010 00:40 IST

At least 245 million women around the world have been widowed with India alone accounting for 42.4 million. And more than 115 million widows live in devastating poverty, according to a new study released by Britain's Loomba Foundation, which is campaigning to put the plight of widows on the United Nations agenda.

The Loomba Foundation presented the first edition of the study, 'Invisible, Forgotten Sufferers: The Plight of Widows Around the World' to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in New York as part of its campaign.

The foundation observes June 23 - the day on which the mother of Raj Loomba, the Foundation's founder, became a widow - as International Widows Day since 2005.

The report says the countries with the highest number of widows in 2010 were China with 43 million, India with 42.4 million, the US with 13.6 million, Indonesia with 9.4 million, Japan with 7.4 million, Russia with 7.1 million and Brazil with 5.6 million.

When their husbands die, the report says, some women are required to be 'cleansed', some are erroneously accused of murder or witchcraft, some are required to marry another member of the family, many are disinherited and forced out of their homes and many are raped.

According to the report, over 500 million dependent and adult children of widows are caught in a vicious underworld in which disease, forced servitude, homelessness and violence are rampant and youngsters are denied schooling, enslaved or preyed upon by human traffickers. The report adds that 1.5 million children of widows in the world will die before their fifth birthday.

Cherie Blair, president of the Foundation, said: “Widows around the world suffer from lack of income and opportunities. But so much of the hardship faced by widows in developing countries is the direct result of customs and attitudes.

"The Loomba Foundation and its partners can and do bring help to thousands of widows and their children in South Asia and in Africa - educating widows' children in India and helping African widows become self-sufficient in business - but the first step in eradicating the problem is to raise awareness and change attitudes.”

Raj Loomba, the British Indian entrepreneur who established the charity 13 years ago having seen the indignities faced by his own widowed mother, explained the reasons for undertaking the study.

“There's widespread ignorance about this problem. This is why the Foundation has supported this research. And this is why we are campaigning for UN recognition of International Widows Day as a way of getting our message to all those who need to hear it all over the world. Widows are the poorest of the poor, and the reason they are is because they are invisible and forgotten sufferers. They're depending on us to change that situation.”

The foundation was established in 1997 by Raj and Veena Loomba in honour of Loomba's mother, who was widowed at the age of 37 in India. She raised her seven children alone.