23rd JUNE 2017
Anniversary and observed the UN accredited International Widows Day on the 23rd June 2017 at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair, London to spread awareness on the plight of widows globally, and raise funds for the foundation’s upcoming projects in India in partnership with Rotary.
With the help of their patrons, the Loomba Foundation was able to raise £350,000 through donations, auctions and sponsorships. Graced by eminent dignitaries His Excellency Shri Y K SInha- High Commisioner for India as the Chief Guest, Shri Gopichand Hinduja, Co-Chairman of the Hinduja Group as the Guest of Honour, and Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda and Kalyan Banerjee, Chairman of Rotary International Foundation as Special Guests. CB Patel, Editor and Publisher of Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar, a supporter of the Foundation from its inception, was among the esteemed guests.
The evening started with a welcome address by Lord Raj Loomba CBE, and an address by HE Shri Y K Sinha. The evening witnessed the signing ceremony of the partnership project between the Loomba Foundation and the Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM) to provide skills training to 30,000 widows and 2000 widows’ children in the next five years.
A live auction was conducted by Lord Micheal Tobin OBE, and the evening was glittered with performances by the Babette Langford Young Set, 100 School Children, traditional performances by the Gurkha Pipers, Jay Kumar & Dance Asia and disco by Kudos.
A short, but stirring Urdu recital by the renowned musician Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, reinforced the fact that music is the greatest communication of the world.
An elaborate dinner and drinks followed and guests left with a comprehensive book covering the “Twenty successful years of the Loomba Foundation” showcasing their global journey from 1997 to 2017, anecdotal stories of Lord Loomba and his mother Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, and her struggles as she raised her children as a widow – providing a perfect end to the gala evening.
Lord Loomba, who is closely working with the Indian government, is urging for widows rights to restore their dignity in the society. In a letter to the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, he recommended setting up a National Commission for Widows, similar to that of the National Commission for Women.
He told Asian Voice: “We are fortunate to have Panchayat Raj that works mostly in villages but women there are illiterate and depend on family members because they cannot get a job. They are viewed in a different light, abused and exploited. I call them modern day slaves and this should be abolished by putting someone responsible in the panchayat who can take care of the widows.” His third recommendation was to give widows a minority status so they could have the benefit of special privileges and rights, thereby eliminating discrimination and uplifting their status.
“I want to see widows have a status same as others. In the Parliament here, through debates, I have established, and ministers have agreed that widows suffer double discrimination,” he said.
22nd JUNE 2017
On the eve of the International Widows Day, in a separate event organised the previous day to celebrate International Widows Day, (established by the Loomba Foundation in 2005 and recognised by the United Nations in 2010), at the Old Palace Yard, opposite the House of Lords with renowned actress Joanna Lumbley, an ardent patron launching a ‘blimp’ airship outside. Born in Jammu, Joanna has always loved India and instantly joined Lord Loomba when he shared the idea of the foundation with her “ When Raj came to me, I was ignorant about the plight of widows in India, I knew widows tended to be ignored, I didn’t know they were dispossessed of all they had, that their children are mentally and physically abused. Raj was the child of a widowed mother and I was so proud of his intentions and his desire to do something globally that would help not just the women, but their children as well,” she told the Asian Voice.
Lord Loomba, who became emotional while speaking to us about the predicament of his 37-year-old widowed mother Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, said : “CB Patel has been supporting the Loomba Foundation since it was established in 1997. Today is our 20th Anniversary, and we can claim to have brought this issue out of the cupboard, but more needs to be done.”
Mrs Cherie Blair CBE QC and the President of the Loomba Foundation told us about the RILM programme with Rotary International: “the plan is to expand that across India and carry on with the education of widows that we are doing already, and make sure that we never make people think that widows are alright, because in too many parts of the world, everything goes wrong for a woman when she becomes a widow.”
Sharing her views with Asian Voice, she said: “Readers of Asian Voice know about the problem. They can make a difference to give back the dignity of widows by supporting Loomba Foundation, by raising awareness, challenging the out-of-date taboos that have led to this in the first place. Also, to understand that women and men are entitled to equal dignity and respect in their lives.”