Global celebs to join Indian businessman’s campaign for widows

June 17th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, June 17 (IANS) More than 300 international celebrities and stars are set to join an Indian-born businessman campaign for the United Nations to declare a world widows day. The Loomba Trust, run by British textiles tycoon Raj Loomba, is hosting a summer concert at Trafalgar Square - a central London favourite of tourists - June 23 to raise awareness of the plight of widows in India and elsewhere in the developing world.

The Trust, which is headed by Cherie Blair, wife of former British premier Tony Blair, wants the UN to recognise June 23 as World Widows Day.

“That was the day in 1954 when my father passed away, leaving my mother Pushpa Wati to single-handedly raise and educate seven children,” said Loomba, who last week was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for his work for widows and the promotion of Indo-British relations.

“I grew up as a widow’s son. I saw my mother’s life change overnight when my father died, when she had to remove her jewellery, put on white clothes and was even ordered away from the my wedding ceremony,” Loomba told IANS.

The Loomba Trust works in 23 countries around the world to try and end discrimination against widows, a problem that is particularly widespread in India - home to 35 million of the world’s estimated 100 million widows.

“This stigma in India is a very serious problem - it stops widows from remarrying and pushes them into a life of poverty. The education and empowerment of Indian widows is a very important task because only then will widows be seen as an asset to our societies.”

The Loomba Trust’s list of patrons include Prince Charles, Virgin group founder Sir Richard Branson, Conservative party leader David Cameron, journalist Mark Tully, television presenter Alastair Stewart, artist Yoko Ono and film actress Joanna Lumley.

They will join over 300 A-list international celebrities and dignitaries along with members of the public for a free-to-attend concert by a world class and eclectic line-up of bands and celebrated artistes from across the globe.

Loomba said Cherie Blair is a “tireless campaigner” for the Trust, which has also benefited from the involvement of Lord Navneet Dholakia of the Liberal Democrats party and Laxmi Mal Singhvi, the late Indian High Commissioner to Britain.

Loomba said the problem affects not only widows, who are denied their right to inheritance, abused, isolated and pushed to the very fringes of society. It also affects their children who are forced to opt out of school because of lack of money.

“My mother faced discrimination in spite of the fact that she had resources inherited from my businessman-father. The situation of widows in poverty is far worse,” Loomba said.

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