This International Women's Day, it’s time to support those who have lost loved ones
As I look back, 2020 was an unprecedented, unpredictable and unforgettable year. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed more than two million people and destroyed economies all over the world. It has spared no country.
Sadly, more men have died leaving behind many Covid widows. In the UK, more than 120,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19. Many will have left behind loved ones; husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Many will be left lonely, insecure and victims of bereavement grief.
I set up the Loomba Foundation in 1997, in memory of my late mother, who became a widow at the early age of 37 years in Punjab in India. Losing a loved one is heart breaking at the best of times. But facing a bereavement at such an early age can be more challenging than usual.
Although I was then very young, I saw first-hand the grief, loneliness, sufferings and discrimination that my mother faced as a widow. I was heart-broken, as it was no fault of my mother that her husband died of tuberculosis yet her sufferings were two-fold. She was a woman and she was a widow.
The former UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon has said: “All widows should be protected by the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and other international human rights treaties.”
He also added: “Despite the many difficulties, widows face, many make valuable contributions to their countries and communities. We can reduce the suffering that widows endure by raising their status and helping them in their hour of need. This will contribute to promoting the full and equal participation of all women in society”.
Our government has left no stone unturned to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic. They have invested billions of pounds to support NHS and research for the vaccine to save lives. The government has also spent billions more to save jobs and the economy through the furlough of millions of people and grants to numerous businesses. Vaccine rollout is an exemplary achievement as more than 20 million people have already received the first dose.
But I urge the UK government to also set up a Covid-19 widows support group to provide financial support and practical help to overcome bereavement grief. This group should be established as soon as possible. We also know that this dreadful virus has disproportionately killed more people from BAME backgrounds and that people in deprived areas are more likely to die than those in affluent areas.
It is our moral duty, particularly at this moment, where so many women are in need of empowerment and championing. Many need a financial help and support for their bereavement grief and their unique stories deserve to be heard and prioritised.
By setting up Covid widows support group, the UK government will not only set an example for other countries to follow but commemorate International Women’s Day in its truest sense.