New York, NY -- "Gabon has had to confront its own social and cultural challenges concerning widows, which is why leading the effort to pass International Widow's Day was so important and personal for me," said Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, the First Lady of the Gabonese Republic and the champion of the International Widow's Day resolution that passed the UN General Assembly last December. "International Widow's Day shines a light on widows, and Yoko's brilliant piece humanizes them to the world."
Madame Bongo Ondimba was referring to unique artwork by Yoko Ono on display at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
In recognition of the first ever United Nations International Widows' Day on June 23, the London-based Loomba Foundation joined hands with renowned artist Yoko Ono in sponsoring a commemorative art exhibit at the United Nations. Yoko Ono's work will be exhibited at the United Nations in honor of widows around the world. Unveiled on June 22, on the eve of the first International Widows' Day, the project is an extension of Ms. Ono's ongoing online project titled MY MOMMY IS BEAUTIFUL, a tribute to women and mothers around the world. An exhibition of a series of paintings highlighting the global plight of widows by London-based artist Reeta Sarkar was also launched.
The Loomba Foundation, a leading non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to widows' awareness and rights, initiated June 23 as International Widows' Day in London in 2005. Since then, the Foundation has campaigned to get the day recognized by the United Nations which occurred last December following a unanimous resolution sponsored by the Government of Gabon.
Talking about her exhibit and the plight of widows, Yoko Ono said, "Mothers are the heroes of families. But in many societies, widowed mothers have no voice and are not valued as human beings. My hope with this collaboration is to make a big statement about the value of all mothers."
Cherie Blair, President of the Loomba Foundation, said, "There are few resources in the world available to help widows achieve a safer and more comfortable existence, to promote their equality, and to pursue justice on their behalf. Ms. Ono's exhibit, Reeta Sarkar's artwork, and the United Nations declaring June 23rd International Widows' Day have directed the world's attention towards widows and towards developing fundamental resources to assist them. Recognizing how widows are marginalized is the first step in alleviating the plight faced by many women in this forgotten group. In creating these moving pieces of art, Ms. Ono and Ms. Sarkar are helping raise consciousness about the need for dignity, respect and fundamental human rights for all widows around the world."
Raj Loomba, Founder and Chairman Trustee of the Loomba Foundation, said that greater public
engagement in helping the world's 245 million widows is essential for overcoming social and economic adversities widows face.
"Anything we can do to help these women seek justice and have access to the appropriate resources will change the lives of so many individuals and families," he commented.
On June 23 at the United Nations, First Lady Sylvia Bongo Ondimba was center stage at a conference of international experts, diplomats, and social justice advocates who gathered to discuss the plight of widows worldwide and what individuals, civil society, and governments can do to address issues of poverty, education, joblessness, and despair.