On International Widows’ Day, Boris Johnson must add action to his words

·1 min read

Boris Johnson’s government betrays not just children (Punishing the young serves Johnson’s politics of nostalgia, 22 June) but also women and girls – not just here, but across the world – by its brutal cuts in aid to the communities that need it most, and by its breach of legal obligations under Cedaw (the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women).

Its arms sales and trade deals to racist, misogynist and authoritarian regimes, whose wars create uncounted millions of widows of all ages, violate the UN’s arms trade treaty. Where rape and displacement are weapons of war, overcrowded camps for internally displaced people and refugees are full of impoverished widows. And now Covid-19 competes with armed conflict to be another supreme widow-maker.

Widowhood is a key driver of taking girls out of school, into child marriage, often preceded by female genital mutilation, resulting in child widowhood, more poverty and inequality. Next month, Johnson will co-host an education summit with the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta. He says he prioritises keeping girls in school. Wednesday, International Widows’ Day, is a golden opportunity for him to add action to his words, lift the blanket of silence off this urgent gender issue and lead the international community to give it the attention it so badly needs.
Margaret Owen
President, Widows for Peace through Democracy

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