NewYork: Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna will shine the spotlight on the rights and empowerment of widows and speak “in honour of the widows of India and around the world” at a special event later this month on Capitol Hill in Washington DC coinciding with International Widows Day.
Khanna has been dedicated to the cause of widows’ dignity and empowerment since 2011 and his book ‘The Last Color’ and namesake film starring Neena Gupta focusses on the life and plight of widows in the ancient Indian city of Banaras.
The critically-acclaimed film was screened at the UN and won several international awards.
Khanna is the Global Goodwill Ambassador for Widows and will be a special guest at a panel event organised by non-profit organisation Global Fund for Widows (GFW) on Capitol Hill on June 21 to commemorate International Widows Day.
Khanna said that as a Global Goodwill Ambassador for Widows, he is ”proud” that he will be speaking and providing ”testimony” at the “United States Congress in celebration and in honour of the widows of India and widows around the world.” He stressed that ”it is time we end the world’s silence on widows and make widows matter.” The Global Fund for Widows said its public event titled ‘Ending the World’s Silence on Widows: Opportunities for Leadership Around the World’ will bring together global gender experts and civil society members and is aimed at encouraging policymakers and practitioners to “reflect on the ways in which widows are present or could be incorporated in their own work, and provide recommendations on ways in which widowhood can be mainstreamed across US foreign policy and development programming going forward.” Global Fund for Widows said Khanna, as Global Goodwill Ambassador for Widows and an established chef, humanitarian and filmmaker, whose work has focused on the plight and rights of widows, is uniquely poised to contribute to the discussion.
“Moreover, his influence will help GFW and the widows’ rights movement advance its policy aims across the US Government; it is our hope that federal recognition of International Widows Day through a resolution in the US Congress will bring much-needed attention and resources to remedying the rights violations they face in certain parts of the world.” Participating in the panel will be Former First Lady of Malawi and High Commissioner of Malawi to Kenya Callista Mutharika, Minister of Social Welfare, Sierra Leone Baindu Dassama, Co-Founder of Pour Les Femmes Karen Fowler and Founder of Global Fund for Widows Heather Ibrahim-Leathers.
“Widowed women constitute one of the most disadvantaged and impoverished demographics in the world and widowhood persists as one of the most neglected gender and human rights issues, which are currently not included in Department of State human rights reports,” the organisation said.
It also added that “this collective lack of data and substantive research prevents the various departments of the US Government from adequately addressing the unique needs and challenges widows face across its foreign policy aims and objectives and through USAID programmes.” The panel will engage in discussion to explore the next steps across US foreign policy and development programming to “recognise and integrate the unique needs and experiences of widows” and hear from experts who are leading advocacy and development programming for widows.
The organisation said it is dedicated to empowering widows and female heads of households to overcome poverty through skills-based training, job creation, and micro-finance through its work in Africa, the Middle East, and India.