UN adopts resolution to address plight of widows

Widow Robina Kwamboka, 65, at her home in Metamaywa, Nyamira, on January 28, 2022. Kwamboka’s in-laws are dispossessing her of her matrimonial property.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The resolution, which was passed during the ongoing 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, USA, is Africa's group proposal, of which Kenya is a co-sponsor.
  • Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, who is leading the Kenyan delegation at the event, termed it an exciting moment and a win for all widows across the world.

The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution that once implemented will see countries put in place policies aimed at ending the plight of widows.

The resolution, Addressing the Situation of Widows, was passed last week as the first-ever General Assembly resolution acknowledging the violation of human rights of widows in some parts of the world.

It calls on the international community to recognise that widowhood exacerbates disproportionate inequality and needs to be comprehensively addressed beyond social protection.

Co-sponsored proposal

The resolution, which was passed during the ongoing 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, USA, is Africa's group proposal, of which Kenya is a co-sponsor.

Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, who is leading the Kenyan delegation at the event, termed it an exciting moment and a win for all widows across the world.

“We are excited about this historic resolution. It brings us one step closer to achieving gender equality and towards meeting Sustainable Development Goals," she said.

The CS said the government will continue supporting widows through policy and other pragmatic interventions.

The founder of Come Together Widows and Orphans Organisation, Ms Dianah Kamande, lauded the move by the UN, saying it will help end widows' suffering.

Ms Kamande called on countries to take the resolution seriously and address things that contribute to widows' anguish.

“This is a wonderful step and a win for the widows. As widows, we will work with the government and UN Women to domesticate this resolution for a better Kenya," said Ms Kamande.

4 million in Kenya

According to the 2019 Census report, Kenya has about four million widows. They, the report says, face challenges that involve disinheritance, discrimination and harmful traditional practices that include cleansing rites and sexual violence.

The government has, therefore, been working on measures and policies to tackle the challenges. The Women Enterprise Fund last year, for example, launched a special loan product for widows, a move meant to address their suffering.

Thamini, a loan facility launched on Wednesday in Nairobi, has been tailored to offer widows access to interest-free group loans with no administration costs.

Applicants must be registered women-only self-help groups of 10 members and above, with at least 70 per cent being widows. A group must have existed for at least three months to qualify.

The benefitting groups must also have an account with a bank, Sacco or deposit-taking micro-finance.

UN Women says there are over 250 million widows globally, with one in 10 facing discrimination and extreme poverty, along with their families.

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