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Gabon Mission to the United Nations

Establishing a new landmark in human rights, United Nations unanimously declares June 23 International Widows Day.

Gabon Spearheads Unprecedented Global Effort to Increase Awareness of the Plight of 245 Million Widows Around the World. Cherie Blair in her capacity as President of the Loomba Foundation helped rally the international community behind the resolution.

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Dec 21, 2010) - The spotlight shines on the plight of some 245 million widows around the world, many of them poor and destitute, following unanimous passage in the UN General Assembly of a resolution today declaring June 23rd International Widows Day.

Loomba Foundation President Cherie Blair and Founder and Chairman Raj Loomba CBE, congratulated and thanked the Central African Republic of Gabon, a Member of the United Nations Security Council, and Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the First Lady of Gabon, for sponsorship of the Resolution and their tireless support and championing of the cause.

This rare designation of an international day of recognition by the UN follows independent verification of shocking levels of violence and deprivation faced by hundreds of millions of widows worldwide. The resolution, approved by the 192 representatives of the Third Committee of the General Assembly, was a passionate personal initiative of Madame Bongo. The Loomba Foundation has spearheaded the advocacy for widows globally since its inception in 1997.

H.E. Mr. Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations, introduced the resolution following publication of “Invisible Forgotten Sufferers,” a report issued by the Loomba Foundation, which found that almost 60 million widows live in extreme poverty where basic needs go unmet. Widowhood precipitates a host of other social ills such as malnutrition, deteriorating health, starvation and physical insecurity, such as rape and risk of HIV/AIDS. During the recent UN General Assembly meetings in New York, Madame Bongo Ondimba and Mrs. Blair in her capacity as President of the Loomba Foundation, helped rally the international community behind the resolution.

“Widows are everywhere in the world, yet in many countries, they are nowhere to be seen or heard. They are hidden in the shadows, denied their basic rights and dignity. This resolution aims to shine a light on these women and their children, and put moral pressure on the guardians of the retrograde traditions that oppress them,” said Madame Ondimba.

“We are so very grateful to our dear friends President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his wife Sylvia Bongo Ondimba of Gabon for their leadership in actively pushing the issue of widows within the UN agenda,” said Mrs. Blair. “None of this would have been possible without her unfailing support. We take so much of our quality of life for granted. For poor widows, recognition of basic legal and human rights can make all the difference to a life of abject misery.”

Mr. Loomba was elated regarding the passage of the resolution, “I saw my own mother suffer after my father died of tuberculosis. As soon as my father stopped breathing my mother also stopped being an individual. My grandmother ordered my mother—who was still a young woman--to remove her jewelry and bindi (a sign for married women on their forehead) and only wear white clothes. She was belittled and ostracized. She lived in this shadow for 37 years until her death,” said Mr. Loomba. “I started this charity and began this journey in honor of my mother, and with the passage of International Widows Day we can help widows worldwide so that they do not suffer the injustices my mother had inflicted upon her.” He added “ The dream of my life has come true”

To view the press release on the Times of India click here