In 2017, widows still face discrimination in many parts of the world, with almost 40 million in extreme poverty and their children often exploited and unable to receive an education. While some customs and practices are most degrading and extreme in some regions, widowhood hangs like a dark cloud over women almost everywhere for as long as society views the status of women in terms of their men.

The economic risk to families of widowhood causes parents and grandparents to favour boys over girls for education and employment, and so a cycle of deprivation is set in train that affects all humanity. This is why widowhood is not a special interest issue, but a universal one that must be treated with the highest priority if the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UnitedNations in 2015 are to be achieved. The injustice affects individuals and their families, so The Loomba Foundation will continue its education and empowerment programmes that have already transformed the lives of more than 200,000 people.And we will continue the fundraising efforts to help us do so, which have seen us raise more than £5 million – all spent directly on our programmes. Our partnership with the Rotary Literacy Mission in India to empower 30,000 widows in India over the next five years is evidence of that.

But we know that even if we double the number of beneficiaries, or increase them by a multiple of ten, we will still only scratch the surface of the problem, and so we will continue working with governments, international organisations and partners around the world, raising awareness through International Widows Day and carrying out further research to underpin policy and, ultimately, to change cultures so that girls and women can fulfill their potential, and widows can take their rightful place as valued and treasured members of all our communities.

The Rotary Foundation
“Our goal is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy. We support education for all children and literacy for children and adults.”