The United Nations has declared June 23 as International Widows Day to establish the rights and the social dignity of millions of widows around the world who are living in extreme loneliness and suffering.
War has been one of the reasons for turning women into widows. The number of widows in the world has increased so rapidly due to war, conflict, and the death of their husbands due to disease.
There are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty.
The observance of International Widows Day is an initiative of the Loomba Foundation and was launched at the House of the Lords in London on May 26, 2005.
Following the launch, the Loomba Foundation led a five-year global campaign for UN recognition. It resulted in a unanimous decision to adopt International Widows Day as an annual global day of action by the UN General Assembly in December 2010.
Raj Loomba of the Loomba Foundation said he saw with his own eyes the hardships of his mother's widowed life. He said his mother became a widow at a young age.
After his father died, his grandmother told his mother to take off her colorful sari and wipe off her vermilion and wear white sari. His mother had to live a miserable life until her death due to her being a widow.
Sherry Blair said the UN recognition would make it much easier to establish the rights of helpless widows and to create awareness in communities and engage governments in developing effective policies.
The group Campaigners for Widow's Rights said many widows have to give up their rights because of their husbands' wishes or social norms. In some cases, a widow is even blamed for her husband's death.
In 2009, I was talking to a widowed beggar in East Bengal. She lost her husband, two sons, and a daughter during the 1971 war of independence of Bangladesh.
She lost her husband and children and she became a mad. She is alive but she feels dead inside. She started begging to save his life. She begs every day.
She said no one understands the plight of widows. No one wants to help them.
"Widows and people have a right to life, so why are they being deprived of that right? If my husband and children were alive today, I probably wouldn't have to suffer,” she said.
It was really sad to hear the words of this widow, but I couldn't do anything for her.
Today, when I sat down to write, I remember the words of that widow.
In Bangladesh, an estimated 4.5 million widows comprise 2.7 per cent of the total population. The more aged the married woman is, the more likely it is she will be a widow. The number of widows far exceeds widowers.
The observance of International Widows Day is an opportunity for action for their rights and recognition.
Today, I would like to extend my best wishes to all the widowed mothers. I urge everyone to take care of all the widowed mothers in our country because it is our responsibility to love and protect them.