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Victimization of Widows


UN Women Executive Director,
Michelle Bachelet

Dear Michelle Bachelet,

I am writing this letter based on my ongoing campaign to stop the victimization of widows. As a poet, I have used the only weapon available to me- my pen, over the years, to fight this issue that has plagued women in the world. In this respect, would like to share a bit of my experience with you.

In various parts of the world, irrespective of religion, tradition and culture, widows are victims of violence and oppression at the hands of close family members and especially their in-laws. In 2006, I wrote an article titled 'Death of a Husband' which was published by the Widows Rights International following the babaric and unbelievable treatment that was meted out to my mother, and we the children when she lost her husband, my father.

My mother was stripped of every penny that was left with her by my father's elder brother and relatives and physically harrassed and hassled unnecessarily by them while she was mourning his death in the early stages.
Amongst the inhumane and spurious rituals that she was expected to participate in, was the drinking of the water used to wash my father's corpse, in order to prove her 'innocence' in relation to his death. All of these rituals, she vehemently refused. My father's body was also desecrated in full view of the public on the day that was supposed to be his burial, by his elder brother- my uncle, to humiliate my mother and we, his children... and we were forcefully refused his burial. A burial which finally took place a week after that, sadly in a chaotic atmosphere after a stand off between my mother's family and that of my father's which could have ended in violence.

I believe that change can happen, and will happen only when we actually put our hearts to it. The UN Women Agency has a great role to play here and can actually help in eradicating the barbaric practices and rituals surrounding widows only when they put the below points to play:

1. Commission a United Nations Report on Widowhood in conjunction with widows organizations on the ground.

2. Appoint a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Widowhood.

3. Devise flexible policies to fund widows' groups to mobilize widows to voice their issues in peace negotiations and constitutional and law reform committees.

4. Fund collection of disaggregated data, based on marital status and family structure, to quantify, monitor, and combat marginalization and multiple marginalization. Ensure marital status and family structure are included in research on and policies based on marginalization and multiple marginalization. Fund widows organizations to conduct the data collection.

5. That CEDAW request State Parties, through a Questionnaire and a "General Recommendation" to State Parties, to monitor the status of widows and their families in their countries and to fund widows' organizations to participate in conducting the outreach to and evaluation of widows and their families.

6. Organize international conferences by 2012 on Widowhood, human rights, poverty, and justice in Asia and Africa.

7. Mainstream Widowhood issues into all international and regional policy meetings, and in all implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals, and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and its subsequent resolutions.

8. Include "widows" as a specific category in National Action Plans to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

I look forward to the day when this miracle actually happens.

Best Regards,

Chinwe Azubuike.

As the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women officially begins its work this month, World Pulse is asking women worldwide: What is YOUR vision and recommendation for UN Women? We invite you to raise your voice by writing a letter to UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet outlining your recommendation for how this new UN agency can truly affect change on the ground to promote gender equality and uphold the rights and needs of women both on a local and global scale.
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jadefrank's picture

Thank you!

Dear Chinwe,

Thank you for participating in this campaign, by using your voice and speaking out for women - especially widows who often fall victim to the worst injustices of all. Your letter is beautifully written and your voice is powerful!

In the coming weeks, we will compile your letters and share your voices with the GEAR Campaign, who have been working closely with UN Women to ensure the inclusion of civil society groups, and through the PulseWire community, grassroots women leaders, as they set their agenda. We will also be sending your letters directly to Michele Bachelet and other senior leaders of the newly formed UN agency, to demonstrate the effectiveness for sourcing opinion, knowledge and needs from the global grassroots women's movement through our online community. Through this, we hope to open a portal for our community to have a direct line of influence within the UN Women agency.

I will keep you updated on the progress of our campaign!

In friendship and solidarity,

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