Millions of widows worldwide suffer crushing poverty and persecution. Many are left destitute after being robbed of their inheritance, while others are enslaved by their in-laws, accused of witchcraft or forced into abusive sexual rituals.
International Widows’ Day on June 23 was created to raise awareness of the often hidden injustices faced by widows. Here are some facts:
*There are an estimated 258.5 million widows globally with 584.6 million children (including adult children).
*Deaths through conflict and disease have contributed to a 9 percent rise in the number of widows since 2010.
*The biggest jump has been in the Middle East and North Africa where the estimated number of widows rose 24 percent between 2010 and 2015, partly due to the Syrian war and other conflicts.
*One in seven widows globally is living in extreme poverty.
*One in 10 women of marital age is widowed. The proportion is around one in five in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
*A third of widows worldwide live in India or China. India, with an estimated 46 million widows, has overtaken China (44.6 million) to become the country with the largest number of widows.
*A significant number of girls are widowed in childhood–a reflection of the prevalence of child marriage in developing countries and the custom of marrying off young girls to much older men.