We must act to end discrimination against widows | Letter

Raj Loomba, Joanna Lumley, Cherie Blair, Karan Bilimoria, Alpesh Patel, David Alton, Margaret Jay, Chris Roles and Bill James call for support for all vulnerable women who have been left widowed by the pandemic

Around the world, a large number of vulnerable women have been left widowed by the pandemic, with the virus disproportionately killing men as well as people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Their loss will be compounded by the unjust and discriminatory treatment many experience in parts of Asia and Africa, where it is not unusual for widows to be blamed for a man’s death. Many face being cast out by families and communities, condemning their future and their children’s. Even widows living in countries with less stigma often struggle financially for many years.

Wednesday marks the 10th UN International Widows’ Day. Now more than ever, we need to take global action towards achieving support and rights for widows. Covid-19 may strike indiscriminately, but the continued discrimination against widows greatly exacerbates the desperate situation millions find themselves in. That is why we are leading the call from NGOs across the world for governments to support the millions of women being left marginalised after the deaths of their husbands.

The UK government should demonstrate leadership, by encouraging other governments to support widows, and closer to home set an example by backing the creation of support groups and financial and practical assistance. We need to prioritise education and facilitate collaboration between authorities, communities and support organisations in order to change attitudes.

We must not leave widows behind as we build back from the pandemic.

Raj Loomba Founder and chair of trustees, The Loomba Foundation
Joanna Lumley Patron of The Loomba Foundation
Cherie Blair President of The Loomba Foundation
Karan Bilimoria Co-chair of the advisory council of The Loomba Foundation
Alpesh Patel Co-chair of the advisory council of The Loomba Foundation
David Alton Trustee of the Arise Foundation
Margaret Jay Patron of the Loomba Foundation
Chris Roles Managing director, Age International
Bill James Chair, WAY Widowed and Young

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