Arria: Widows in conflict-settings

Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Trine Heimerback in the Arria-formula meeting 'Closing the Protection Gap for Widows in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings', 15 November 2021.

Let me thank Niger and the co-chairs for highlighting this important issue.

We know that the devastating loss of a partner can increase the vulnerabilities in a woman’s situation. Stigmatisation and marginalistion in their communities means that widows, and women who have lost male household members, often face heighted risk of violence. Especially when they find themselves in an unsafe environment, like internal displacement.

I would like to make three points.

First, widowhood can lead to dramatic changes in the social and economic roles women play in their households and communities.

For example, in Afghanistan, women who are head of their household are facing increased challenges in access to employment, humanitarian assistance and basic services for their whole family - due to the restrictions on freedom of movement for unaccompanied women.

Striving for their equal access must be addressed in all our efforts.

Second, children are also impacted.

They may have their education disrupted, because of the need to contribute to household income. And once they are out of school, they might never go back. This is a sad truth, especially for girls.

Socio-economic aspects can also make them vulnerable to increased recruitment and use in armed conflict. Children who are pushed to join armed groups due to economic reasons remain in ranks for many years, and face a high risk of re-recruitment.

Women who have lost their partners are also at a heightened risk of sexual violence. Significant action is still needed to ensure the rights and well-being of survivors of sexual violence in conflict, including when they become pregnant as a result. There is also a need for concerted efforts at all levels to support the realisation of the rights of children born of sexual violence in conflict. And to improve overall access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all women.

Third, we stress the imperative of full, meaningful, and equal participation of women in all aspects of peace and security, including in decision-making processes related to protection measures.

Protection needs will differ depending on the specific situation of women who are alone in conflict and post-conflict situations, including through widowhood.

This underlines the need for tailored responses.

As underlined by today’s discussions, we must include women in all their diversity, especially those who face multiple forms of discrimination, to build and sustain peace.