International Widows Day commemoration 2023
“Discrimination against widows has existed for centuries,” India’s solicitor general Mr Tushar Mehta told dinner guests at the UK House of Lords, adding that “as the most populous country, the largest democracy and the fastest-growing economy in the world, India has an
important part to play in finding solutions to challenges and creating a sustainable world for everyone.
Mr Mehta was speaking by live video link from Delhi, addressing a banquet hosted by Crossbench Peer Lord Raj Loomba CBE to commemorate International Widows Day, which was simultaneously marked with eleven Loomba Foundation-coordinated events in locations throughout India, as well as by other organisations in UN member states throughout the world.
The Government of India and the UK have both played an important part in supporting the global campaign to end discrimination against widows since it was launched by the Loomba Foundation in 1997.
“This is a deep-rooted problem that cannot be solved by Government alone,” Mr Mehta said. “It requires a cultural change and I am pleased that it is a charity with Indian roots, the Loomba Foundation, that has led the campaign for widows over the last 25 years and persuaded the United Nations to adopt International Widows Day as its own initiative.” He
committed the Indian Government “to stay the course so that in future, all
widows can be valued members of the community, able to support themselves and
lead a life of dignity”.
Former UK First Lady, Lady Cherie Blair, CBE, KC, president of the Loomba Foundation, recounted how Lord Loomba “came up with the idea of an annual, global, day of action when we came to realise that the plight of widows is by no means confined to India but is prevalent all over the world, built into deep-rooted traditions and customs that are hard to shake even with national legislation.” She said that following its adoption by the United Nations in 2011 after a five-year campaign, “the issue is no longer invisible, and slowly but surely the dial is beginning to shift,” adding that “we all have our part to play in completing that task.”
The banquet was also addressed by Mr G P Hinduja, chairman of the Hinduja Group, and by the Indian High Commissioner to London, Mr Vikram Doraiswami. In his vote of thanks, Loomba Foundation founder and chairman/trustee Lord Raj Loomba CBE noted that the reason International Widows Day had been established was that “we wanted to achieve more than we could alone, and this we can only do through awareness.”
He noted that “when we got the unanimous support of the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 it was the culmination of a campaign, but as ever, when we reached the mountain top, it showed the path ahead and the even higher peaks that must be scaled.”
The World Widows Report published by the Loomba Foundation in 2016 showed that there are still a quarter of a billion widows of whom 38 million live below the poverty line with their
dependent children. “Young women, Lord Loomba pointed out, “are still routinely
blamed for the death of their husbands, deprived of their inheritance and left unable to fend for themselves or their children. The customs and rituals around widowhood in many countries are dehumanising and degrading. Our aim is not just to help widows and their children, but to eradicate discrimination from the world.”
He thanked thlose present for supporting the work of the Foundation, noting that “we can do none of this without the goodwill and support of our friends in government, industry and
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Information for editors
Lord Raj Loomba CBE is a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords and Chairman Trustee of The Loomba Foundation, a UN-accredited specialist NGO established to alleviate the plight of widows and their dependents worldwide and to eradicate discrimination and injustice against widows.
The Loomba Foundation was established in 1997. In 2005 Lord Loomba proposed International Widows Day as a global day of action to eradicate injustice and discrimination against widows. In December 2010, after a five-year campaign, the proposal was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly and since then International Widows Day has focused worldwide attention on the cause each year on 23 June. In 2016 The Loomba Foundation published the World Widows Report – the first comprehensive global study with country by country information about the plight of widows, one of the most marginalised and unfairly disadvantaged groups of humanity.
Lord Loomba is Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development and a Vice-President of Barnardo’s.
To find out more about the work of The Loomba Foundation, visit