For International Widows Day on 23rd June 2020 we held a webinar to mark this important day. The purpose of the webinar was to raise awareness of the impact of COVID-19 on widows worldwide and to call for international support for widows empowerment both financially and socially.
It was a pleasure to host the webinar as we were joined by a stellar cast of guests. They were:
- Mrs Cherie Blair QC CBE, President of the Loomba Foundation
- Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, First Lady of Sierra Leone
- Ms Simone Mensah, Vice President of the Sylvia Bongo Ondimb Foundation (Gabon)
- Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO (Niti Aayog), Government of India
- Dr Peter Rajsingh (Trustee of the Loomba Foundation)
The discussion was moderated by Mr Harjiv Singh who is a Trustee of the Loomba Foundation.
We recorded the debate which you can view in full below. If you want to skip to a specific speaker or part of the video please use the following as a guide:
00:12 Lord Loomba CBE speaks and opens webinar
14:19 Video for International Widows Day
17:26 Video ends and Harjiv Singh introduces panel
18:37 Cherie Blair QC CBE speaks
25:59 Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI speaks
32:18 Mrs Fatima Maada Bio (First Lady of Sierra Leone) speaks
44:14 Dr Simone Mensah representing First Lady of Gabon speaks (Peter Rajsingh translates)
58:00 Wrapping up with Harjiv Singh, Peter Rajsingh & Lord Loomba CBE
Some highlights from the debate are as follows:
Mrs Blair has been a stalwart supporter and pillar of the Loomba Foundation and its work for over two decades, since its very beginnings in 1997. Mrs Blair echoing Lord Loomba's words, emphasised, “During COVID19, there are going to be many newly widowed women who will need our support as they fight these challenging times, as they are still living difficult lives in the society. (...) they shouldn't,” she stressed, “face prejudice, and neither they or their children should be expected to make any sacrifices.”
Taking part from India, Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO Niti Aayog, Government of India agreed, saying, “The COVID19 lockdown has left widows exposed as a vulnerable group with no access to finance to support their children or themselves.” Explaining how the Indian government has ensured financial support has directly reached those widows affected, he underlined, “the role of civil societies, voluntary groups and citizens is extremely important.”
Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, First Lady, Sierra Leone, highlighting the challenges faced in Sierra Leone, explained how difficult it can be for bereaved widows where cultural norms mean men often have up to four wives. A widow, finding herself out of favour with the wider family can be left destitute, with no means to provide for herself or her children. “Traditionally,” she said, “access to finances and inheritance rights have been the biggest challenge for widows.'They not only fight the loss of their partner,” she described, “but are also left isolated and homeless. “In Sierra Leone, (...)apart from COVID19, we have a history of war and Ebola pandemic that have escalated the situation. As widows continue to be vulnerable, their children and they often also become victims of rape and early marriage.”
Ms Simone Mensah, Vice President, Sylvia Bongo Ondimb Foundation, joining from Gabon, was keen to stress, “It is extremely important for us to work together and change the atrocious practices against widows to support human rights. Widow empowerment is,” she declared, '”a vast domain that merits us to work in a dedicated and concerted manner.”
A valuable point, summed up by Mrs Blair was that, “Unless we empower widows to play their full role, we cannot realize the real potential of our country that we are all working towards,” really hit home the importance of International Widows Day and all the valuable work that is done and needs to be done to empower widows worldwide, now and in the future.
Thank you for your support.