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  • Writer's pictureDr. Roberta Borgen (Neault), Canada

UN International Widows' Day - 23 June, SDGs 5 and 10

Invisible Women, Invisible Problems:

For many women around the world, the devastating loss of a partner is magnified by a long-term fight for their basic rights and dignity. Despite the fact that there are more than 258 million widows around the world, widows have historically been left unseen, unsupported, and unmeasured in our societies. ~United Nations

Dr. Roberta Borgen shares her experience as a widow:

I was widowed 12 years ago in Canada and remained on my own for just over 7 years before remarrying. In Canada, I recognize that women’s rights are much more protected than in other parts of the world and, in my case, I owned my own business and had been the primary earner in our family for several years prior to suddenly losing my first husband. He had been a banker and investment advisor, so I was not in the precarious financial position that many women are worldwide, and even in countries like Canada. Despite that, the first financial advice I was given by one of my husband’s former banking colleagues was to be very careful about protecting my assets and what and when to inform the bank that my husband had died.

As I reflect on careers that could support widows, I’ve already mentioned a few. Bankers and financial advisors are essential supports in settling estates and setting up accounts and access to credit for someone who has suddenly become single. In some cases, widows may need the support of accountants, lawyers, and real estate agents. If already working, they’ll need supportive and empathic managers and supervisors. Many widows may not have access to extended health benefits, so need access to trustworthy advice. Many could benefit from career counselling along with grief counselling – some may have been out of the workforce for years as they focused on caregiving and homemaking responsibilities; others may have worked part-time or experienced career disruptions as the accompanying partner of a spouse whose career was given top priority within the family.

In times of conflict, pandemics, and natural disasters, widowhood can be further complicated by lack of access to resources, incomplete documentation, and disrupted systems. Losing a spouse is life-altering; widows need the time and space to grieve in peace without fearing discrimination, economic insecurity, or loss of basic rights and respect. On this International Widows Day, I encourage you to reach out to a widow, listen to really understand her needs, and offer relevant support and advocacy.


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