Other Provisions Related to Maltreatment of Widows

last updated March 2015

In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at www.endvawnow.org.

Public awareness and education

Drafters should consider provisions to fund public education on widows’ rights and in particular outreach to widows. The United Nations International Widows Day, June 23, which was established in 2010 by General Assembly Resolution 65/189 is one opportunity for global advocacy. The resolution calls on Member States to “relevant organizations of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, to observe International Widows’ Day and to raise awareness of the situation of widows and their children around the world. Raising widows’ awareness of their own rights is an important component of ensuring protection of their rights. Women are more empowered to advocate for their own rights when they are aware of legal provisions and international instruments that apply to them. Reaching out to elderly women can be particularly important in this regard. For example, a study in India revealed that, depending on region, only between 13% and 41% of elderly women were aware of the Protection for Women against Domestic Violence Act and approximately one quarter of elderly participants in the study were not aware of the role of police in enforcing protections against abuse of the elderly. See: Report on Elder Abuse in India, HelpAge India (2010). Legislation should mandate government support and funding for public awareness-raising campaigns on violence against women, including widows, such as:

  • general campaigns sensitizing the population about violence against women as a manifestation of inequality and a violation of women’s human rights; and

  • specific awareness-raising campaigns designed to heighten knowledge of laws enacted to address violence against women, in particular inheritance and property rights, and the remedies they contain.

  • public information campaigns aimed at educating women and girls about available resources.

  • trainings and workshops on estate planning for the public that emphasizes the rights of women in inheritance.

  • education on HIV/AIDS and its prevention in consultation with HIV/AIDS organizations and advocates. Such education should address the interconnection between HIV/AIDS and women’s human rights.

  • Outreach should target and engage religious and community leaders as well as men and boys to increase their awareness about women’s human rights, maltreatment of widows and the law. Public education programs should encourage them to emphasize to their communities that widows’ rights must be protected. It is essential that religious and traditional leaders understand domestic laws related to the maltreatment of widows and how certain practices violate women and girls’ human rights.

  • Legislation should encourage the sensitization of journalists and other media personnel regarding violence against women.

See: Implementation of Laws on Violence against Women and Girls; UN Handbook, 3.5.2, 3.5.4.

Promising Practice: Legislation should support efforts by advocates and civil society to conduct public education activities. The Justice for Widows and Orphans Project (JWOP) in Zambia hosted a call-in radio program on widows and orphans on a weekly basis on Lusaka and national stations. JWOP also created two 13-week programs for television, which presented dialogues with widows and orphans, advocates working on the issue and information about JWOP. A majority of the television programs addressed issues of property and inheritance. The public impact has been positive, and JWOP’s Victims Support Unit reported a large increase in calls, inquiries and accounts of property grabbing during the shows’ running. See: Varga, Christine A., The Case of the Justice for Widows and Orphans Project in Zambia, ICRW, 2006.

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