Although accurate information is limited, it has been estimated that there are some 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty. Data on women's status are often not disaggregated by marital status, so at every level of gender statistics, from national to global, widows are not visible. Yet we know that many elderly widows face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, based on their gender, age, rural location or disability. Others are still young when they lose their husbands, perhaps as a result of conflict or because they were married as children to a much older man. These women face a long lifetime of widowhood.
Once widowed, women in many countries often confront a denial of inheritance and land rights, degrading and life-threatening mourning and burial rites and other forms of widow abuse.