GFW's side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67)


Global Fund for Widows

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Malawi to theUnited Nations

Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to theUnited Nations


Addressing ruralwidowhood – empowerment, ownership, and access to justice

Widowhoodis an essential, yet neglected gender issue, affecting over 300 million widowsand 500 million of their children. When a woman is labeled as a widow, therebecomes a dual marginalization, as both a woman and as a widow. Widows aresubjected to loss of income, status, and access, primarily due todisinheritance. And, although widowhood is a widespread issue, it is those inthe rural context who bear the greatest vulnerability.

Itis estimated that 57% of the female population living in the rural areas ofdeveloping nations are widows; it is therefore essential to address the issueof widowhood in the rural context. How can we legally and economically empowerrural widows to rise from poverty and defend their rights?


PastorDorcas Wanjiku Rigathi, Honorable SecondLady of the Republic of Kenya

H.E.Pastor Dr. Dorcas Rigathi is the Second Lady of the Republic of Kenya andSpouse of the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Rigathi Gachagua.She is a mother of two boys.

PastorDorcas was born in 1965 in Ndunyu ya Chege village in Gatanga Constituency,Muranga County. The family relocated to Kiandutu slums in Thika, where sheattended Mugumo-ini Primary School.

Shewas a top student during her years in school and qualified for admission at theAlliance Girls High School in Kikuyu for her O-level education. Later, she undertookher A-levels at St. Francis Girls in Mangu.

Sheis a trained teacher, and a Bachelor of Education, Arts Degree holder fromKenyatta University. Pastor Dorcas also holds a diploma in professionalmanagement courses with a focus on the principles of modern management,business and management communication, and sales.

Inhonour of her work with the community, especially widows, and her ministry,Pastor Dorcas received an Honorary Doctorate in Divinity from BreakthroughInternational Bible University in 2021.

PastorDorcas is a career banker who worked with the Cooperative Bank for 15 years.She is also a judicious businesswoman.

PastorDorcas is active in the church and a member of the House of Grace, Nairobi. Shestarted serving in the church as an usher in 2002 and was later ordained in2011. Being the daughter of a widow, she has always been passionate about theless fortunate, and vulnerable, and has worked with widows since her universityyears.

Sheis passionate about helping the most vulnerable. Under the Office of the Spouseof the Deputy President (OSDP), Pastor Dorcas has a vision of A DignifiedFuture for vulnerable populations grounded on chaplaincy and family values,with the main focus groups being the boychild, orphans, widows, and personswith disabilities.

JeanMuonaowauza Sendeza, Minister of Gender,Community Development and Social Welfare of the Republic of Malawi

AmbassadorMaritza Chan, PermanentRepresentative of Costa Rica to the UN

MaritzaChan is a Costa Rican career diplomat, academic, and activist.  She is the first Costa Rican woman to beappointed Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the UN since Costa Ricasigned the UN Charter in 1945. With more than two decades of professional experienceat the highest political level, she has represented Costa Rica before theUnited States and multilateral organizations in both Washington D.C. and NewYork.  

MaritzaChan advocates for the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. She has advocated forgender parity in all events organized by the President of the General Assembly,as evidenced in Res A/75/325, and has campaigned for the election of a femaleSecretary General after 80 years of male leadership.  Gender has been a cross-cutting priority inall of Ambassador Chan's activities at the United Nations.

MagdalenaButrymowicz, Deputy Director at theDepartment of the United Nations and Human Rights of the Polish Ministry ofForeign Affairs

BethRoberts, Director at the Centerfor Women’s Land Rights, Landesa, on the importance of women’s land ownership

Bethis a law, policy, and gender practitioner who works to strengthen gender-equaland socially inclusive rights to land and productive assets. In her role asCenter Director, Beth leads a team of gender experts and specialists across theorganization; provides technical support on gender equality and socialinclusion to Landesa’s program teams; leads Landesa’s work on human rights andcontributes to Landesa’s global advocacy work more broadly; and works tocollaborate with, strengthen, and expand the network of practitioners focusedon gender and natural resource justice worldwide. Before coming to Landesa,Beth was a private practice attorney in Seattle, and was the founder anddirector of a nonprofit dedicated to global women’s rights issues.

HeatherIbrahim-Leathers, Founder and Presidentof Global Fund for Widows

Ms.Ibrahim-Leathers founded Global Fund for Widows following the passing of hergrandmother in 2009. Since then, the Global Fund for Widows has raised over$1,000,000 for economic empowerment programs in Egypt, India, Tanzania,Nigeria, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic. With its focus on training andfinancing widows and female heads of households into building sustainable andinelastic micro-enterprises, the Global Fund for Widows has enabled more than10,000 widows to become economically empowered and self-sustained. Ms.Ibrahim-Leathers has further ensured the sustainability and economic viabilityof each widow’s micro-enterprises by developing intricately interdependentvalue chains, affording purchasing power and high visibility into their incomestreams.

Inaddition to technical and economic programming, Ms. Ibrahim-Leathers is anactive advocate for the rights of widows and child widows at the UnitedNations, presenting regularly including at the Human Rights Council in Geneva,at the Commission on the Status of Women in 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 in NewYork. Ms. Ibrahim-Leathers has also presented on widows at the United Kingdom’sHouse of Lords.

Priorto her career in non-profit, Ms. Ibrahim-Leathers served as a Vice President,in Credit Suisse’s Leveraged Investment Group, where she was directlyresponsible for over $1 billion in high yield and leveraged loan assets. Priorto Credit Suisse, Ms. Ibrahim-Leathers worked at JPMorgan where she was anEmerging Markets Fixed Income analyst responsible for over $4 billion worth ofdebt issuance. Ms. Ibrahim-Leathers earned the coveted Institutional InvestorAward in 1997 for her seminal research on Brazilian banks.

Ms.Ibrahim-Leathers co-authored Toddlers ON Technology in 2013, a parental guideto explaining the benefits and risks of toddlers and their use of touch screentechnology.

Ms.Ibrahim-Leathers earned her Bachelors in Economics from the Wharton School atthe University of Pennsylvania and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.


Get in Touch

To find out more about what we do and how we are tackling issues around widowhood in our countries of programming and around the world, please contact us below.