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Dairy Farm

WRI Past and Present

Widows' Rights International has been promoting widows rights for over a decade and has contributed to and shaped the campaign to end the mistreatment of widows and to recognise their human rights. The first International Widows' Conference in London in February 2001 organised by WRI's predecessor - Empowering Widows for Development (EWD) - highlighted the abuse of widows and their human rights.

An extract from a message to opening plenary of the 2001 conference by Mrs Graça

Machel explains:

"....Wherever they are, irrespective of their religion and culture, a common feature of widowhood is the violence perpetrated against them at the hands of near relatives and condoned by the inaction of governments".

Dr. Nafis Sadik, former Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of UNFPA further elaborated:


"We must not bend under the weight of spurious arguments invoking culture or traditional values. No value worth the name supports the oppression and enslavement of women".

In 2004 EWD name was changed to WRI. Since then we have worked steadfastly to enable widows to have a brighter and fairer future, and our trustees have spoken on the problem of the lack of widows rights at many conferences both in the UK and abroad. These conferences involved magistrates, judges and lawyers, MPs, journalists, business men and women.


WRI has been engaged with the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva since 2010. Our Chair spoke on the lack of recognition of widows' rights and requested that the Council make this a priority concern in their future activities. WRI made another statement in 2019 to the Human Rights Council and has held events on widows every year at the HRC since 2018 .


WRI has also attended the annual sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women since 2000 and has held side events in the NGO Forum almost every year since then.  These have been followed up in the UK with events in the Houses of Parliament.

What we do now

WRI mobilises action by engaging with:

  • International organisations

  • National governments

  • Legal and other civil society organisations, both at grass roots, regional and national levels

WRI offers through this interactive website information on:

  • capacity building and networking around the implementation of widows' rights

  • research into the status and condition of widows and their children; and into the harmful practices against widows which are tantamount to torture

  • legal precedents for widows' rights case law

  • the creation of international instruments protecting widows' rights and how they should be implemented

  • regional meetings and events which support social justice for widows

WRI helps guide organisations in obtaining assistance for:

  • pioneering activities by and for widows which provide examples of best practice

  • activities which establish legal precedents; heighten public awareness; and lead to the repeal of laws inimical to widows

  • action to influence international agencies to condemn practices which deny widows their rights

  • efforts to train widows and legal personnel in rights awareness

Our Impact

WRI's work, together with that of other organisations, has led to the recognition that widows rights must be on the agenda of national Governments, UN agencies as well as International NGOs concerned with gender issues and violence against women.


The time is now ripe to build on this painstaking work by creating networks at global, national, regional and local levels. These networks will advocate for the introduction and implementation of laws to end the abuse of widows and the adoption of social policies which provide viable support mechanisms for them and their children.

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