International Widows' Day

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2024 Date23 June 2024
2025 Date23 June 2025

International Widows' Day

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International Widows' Day History

International Widows' Day is an observance that aims to raise awareness about the issues and challenges faced by widows worldwide. The day also provides an opportunity to address the vulnerability and discrimination experienced by widows in various communities.

In South Africa, the day holds significant importance due to the nation's history of apartheid, which led to the displacement, detainment, and death of numerous men. These events left widows struggling to support their families without social support, resulting in hardship and vulnerability. South Africa launched its National Policy Framework for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in 2000, which emphasized the need for improved support for widows. This framework led to various initiatives for the empowerment and protection of widows, such as the establishment of the Department of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities. The UN officially recognized International Widows' Day in 2010, calling on governments, organizations, and communities worldwide to promote gender equality and protect the human rights of widows.

In South Africa, the day is recognized with events and programs aimed at raising awareness about the challenges faced by widows, alleviating their burden, and supporting sustainable solutions. The overarching aim of International Widows' Day in South Africa is to provide widows with the resources they need to rebuild their lives and thrive in their communities. International Widows' Day is observed annually on June 23rd.

Facts about International Widows' Day

  • In some countries, widows are forced to take part in rituals, such as drinking the water used to wash the body of their dead husband or have sex with an in-law or stranger.
  • Women are more likely to be widowed than men for two reasons:
    1) Women live longer than men;
    2) Women tend to marry older men.
  • Widows in South Africa may be more vulnerable to gender-based violence and sexual abuse, turning them into an at-risk group for further marginalization and trauma.
  • South African widows may experience discrimination based on outdated cultural and societal beliefs that place women in a subservient role.

Top things to do in South Africa for International Widows' Day

  • Donate or volunteer for Widows and Orphans International. All funds that are donated are used to help support widows in need. There are lots of volunteer opportunities in countries such as Kenya that allow volunteers to help widows and orphans get their lives back on track.
  • Use the hashtags #InternationalWidowsDay, #IWD and #WidowsDay on social media to help spread awareness of the holiday.
  • Watch a documentary to learn about the experience of widowhood in South Africa. Here are our recommendations:
    1. Felix! (2013) - A documentary by Andrea Kissack that tells the story of a South African widow who tries to start her own business in order to provide for her children after her husband's death.
    2. Mbali's War (2007) - A documentary by Marianne Gourg that focuses on a group of widows in post-apartheid South Africa who fight against traditional family practices that leave them destitute after their husbands' deaths.
    3. The Widowmaker (2012) - This documentary by the E-Team Productions narrates the stories of different widows in South Africa who have found themselves fighting for their rights within their communities and trying to move forward after losing their husbands.
  • Read a book to learn more about widowhood in South Africa. Here are our suggestions:
    1. AIDS, Widows and the Crisis of Rural Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Gender Perspective by Cheryl Morden
    2. Being a Widow in Contemporary South Africa: Illness Beliefs, European Witches, and African Widow-Cleansing Rituals by Eleanor Preston-Whyte

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