The Vanuatu Widows Association (VWA) marked International Widows Day (IWD) at the Golden Port Restaurant yesterday with the theme ‘Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.’
Over 30 widows were present and celebrated the event with Minister of Justice and Community Services, John Still Tari Qetu.
Dr Andrina KL Thomas, Secretary of Women Against Crime and Corruption (WACC) and Secretary General (SG) of the Vanuatu Civil Society Influencing Network (VCSIN), highlighted the significance of IWD in raising global awareness about widows’ rights and wellbeing. She stressed the challenges faced by widows, including discrimination, social isolation, and economic hardships, particularly in developing countries. “Widows, particularly in developing countries, often experience discrimination, social isolation, and economic hardships following the death of their husbands,” Dr Thomas stated.
“They may face obstacles in inheriting property, accessing education and health care, and participating in the workforce.”
Acknowledging the establishment of IWD by the United Nations (UN) through a resolution adopted on June 23, 2011, Dr Thomas commended the efforts of various organisations and charities advocating for the rights of widows. These organisations have tirelessly worked to shed light on the challenges faced by widows and campaigned for a designated day to raise awareness and promote action. She remarked, “The establishment of IWD is the result of driven efforts by various organisations or charities that advocate for the rights of widows. They have worked tirelessly to bring attention to the challenges faced by widows and campaigned for a designated day to raise awareness and promote action.’
Dr Thomas spoke about the vulnerability faced by widows, as highlighted by the UN resolution, which calls for resources to create support and protection for widows and address their special needs in the context of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“The resolution highlighted the vulnerability situation faced by widows so that they can have access to resources to create support and protection for the widows to address special needs in the broad context of gender equality and women’s empowerment significance,” she said.
IWD, observed annually worldwide, serves as an opportunity to generate public awareness, mobilise resources, and advocate for policy changes and programs that improve the lives of widows. Dr Thomas stated, “IWD observed annually worldwide, provides an opportunity to generate public awareness, mobilize resources and advocates for policy changes and programs to improve the lives of widows, enabling them to rebuild their lives, access education and healthcare, and participate fully in society.”
Minister Qetu expressed gratitude to the mothers for their contributions to Vanuatu’s economic and social welfare.
He emphasised the importance of International Widows’ Day and the need for the Vanuatu Widows Association to submit work plans for inclusion in the new budget of 2024.
Minister Qetu assured the widows that the VWA would have a budget within the Ministry of Justice and urged the Association to work closely with the ministry to ensure their needs are not overlooked.
Mrs. Ligo, a representative from the VWA, voiced the challenges faced by widows in Vanuatu and called for government support. She stressed the importance of budget allocation for implementing the UN convention and recognising widows at the national level. “The Ministry of Justice must make sure to include the group of widows in their budget so that they can celebrate big days like this. And it is a must to set up a budget for women so that they can help different groups of people who need help and assistance,” she said.
Mrs. Ligo pointed out the disparity in budget allocation, noting that while the government provides funds to the Malvatumauri Councils of Chiefs and Vanuatu Christian Council, it only allocates a budget to the Department of Women’s Affairs.
She urged the government to address the struggles faced by widows, who often struggle to make a living and provide for their families. Mrs. Ligo urged the government to recognise the needs of widows.
“With the gender equality that Vanuatu is promoting, we see a lot of groups are the victims. Therefore, we call on the government to realise that many widows are becoming victims and struggle to make a living and provide for their families,” she said.