More needs to be done for Indian widows: Cherie Blair

June 24th, 2008 - 6:15 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 24 (IANS) Cherie Blair, wife of former British premier Tony Blair, says India needs to build on its social achievements to end the stigma suffered by widows. “India has done a great job in outlawing discriminatory practices, but more work needs to be done particularly in some of the more remote and rural areas,” Blair told IANS Monday.

“We need to spread awareness and roll out education in order to create the societal change that is needed to end the prejudice and abuse suffered by widows,” said Blair, who is president of the Loomba Trust that is campaigning to get the UN to recognise June 23 as World Widows Day.

Discrimination against widows is particularly rife in India and Nepal, where widows often have to shave their heads and sleep on the floor.

The Loomba Trust was started by Indian-origin industrialist Raj Loomba, who was disturbed after witnessing acts of discrimination against his mother who became widowed on June 23, 1954.

Although India accounts for some 35 million of the world’s 100 million widows, Cherie Blair said the burden faced by widows is not unique to India.

“It gives me enormous pleasure to see what the Trust is already achieving in Africa and elsewhere in Asia,” she said.

Blair said she plans to visit India in November, when she will not only campaign on widows, but - as a UNICEF ambassador - also spread awareness on the plight of widows’ children.

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