The Global Fund for Widows celebrated the second annual International Widows Day, this year on June 23rd. International Widows Day, which is a day committed to raising awareness of the plight of widowhood, the vicious cycle that forces widows into destitution, as well as promotes taking action to end the harrowing quandary of widowhood, was established last year by the UN Resolution 65/189. This resolution was sponsored by Gabon, and cosponsored by fifty-six countries. This extraordinary resolution passed in large part because of the immoveable leadership of the Gabonese First Lady, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba. The campaign to inaugurate International Widows Day began over 6 years ago, with the promotion from the Loomba Foundation, our esteemed colleague in the fight for widow’s rights.

The GFW observed this momentous day by holding a candlelight vigil for our widows around the world. To honor them, the widows were given an opportunity to, at dusk, hold a candle light vigil during which they lit purple candles to symbolize light in the darkness and the promising hope that each and every widow holds for a new dawn. The GFW also provided a feast in commemoration of the international day in the widow’s names. This celebration has been held in Bolivia and Egypt, and will be observed in the Dominican Republic in a few days.

In Bolivia, the GFW supports 10 widows, yet the program opened this commemorative gathering to all the widows in the community, with over 20 widows in attendance. The ceremonies were launched by our dedicated field manager Maria Rene, who congratulated the widows on their courage and determination to extricate themselves and their children from poverty by working for economic independence. She spoke of a new sense of family within the community of widows, evidenced by the way the widows in the program invited all the other widows in the community to come and join them for the candlelight vigil and feast. She also spoke of how the widows are extending their support through the social contract by making a donation box available where people have the opportunity to donate money, and when they have enough money they will hire another widow in their community. This will extend the virtuous cycle that the GFW has begun. Maria Rene and the GFW was surprised to learn of internal support groups that the widows themselves formed independent of any intervention. These support groups are affording the widows an opportunity to gather and discuss the trials of their widowhood, their predicaments, and to share their wisdom, solutions, and friendship.

The widows themselves were given an opportunity to speak.  In their emotional testimonies, our widows commented on how their dreams of economic independence and fiscal stability have become a reality through the GFW’s Micro-Social Capital program.  Most were intimating hope for their future, and importantly, for their children’s future. Joining in cultural song, the widows lit purple candles at dusk, as a symbol of this new hope, indeed this new dawn in the advancement of widows’ rights.

The celebration included a traditional dinner feast for the widows and their children gifted by the GFW of fish, vegetables, and rice.

Paradoxically, the celebration had the effect of creating a sense of great pride and belonging to a group of women that had historically been shunned, ostracized, and abused as a direct result of their widowhood.  Paradoxically, widows found themselves supporting each other, offering each other invaluable help such as best practices advise – the true essence of the Social Contract component of our Micro-Social Capital program.  Paradoxically, widows not currently in our program are now eager to enroll, and are motivated to end the vicious cycle of poverty, to end the Epidemic of Widowhood.