Cape Town – On the occasion of the 2023 World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, observed on 19 November, a critical aspect of the global road safety crisis is brought into focus: its disproportionate impact on women’s rights. Road crashes, responsible for 1.3 million deaths annually, not only cause physical and emotional suffering but also lead to socio-economic and psychological burdens, particularly affecting women.
According to World Economic Forum, widows represent a significant portion of those affected by road accidents, with 20% of widowed women losing their spouses in road crashes. These women often face compounded challenges, including the psychological trauma of loss, a decrease in household productivity, and, in some communities, the denial of their rightful inheritance and other legal rights.
The issue extends beyond the immediate tragedy of road crashes. The financial and healthcare burdens, coupled with potential disabilities resulting from these accidents, often leave women, especially widows, in a vulnerable position. They may find themselves as the sole breadwinners in their families, facing economic hardships and social stigmatization.
The crisis is particularly acute in developing economies, where 90% of road deaths occur. These regions are home to a significant proportion of the estimated 258 million widows globally, many of whom live in extreme poverty. In response, organizations like the Global Fund for Widows are working to economically empower widows through initiatives like the Widows’ Savings and Loan Associations (WISALAs) and global advocacy for widows’ rights.
To effectively address this issue, three key pathways have been identified:
Scaling women-centered solutions: Empowering women through financial and legal support is vital for their economic recovery and protection of rights. Programs like WISALAs provide sustainable capital sources for widows, helping them rebuild their lives after tragic losses.
Investing in effective road safety measures: The UN Road Safety Fund’s Vision Zero initiative aims to eliminate road deaths by prioritizing safety in transport systems. Investing in evidence-based solutions and road safety management can preserve lives and livelihoods, particularly for women who may become sole providers following a crash.
Advocating for safer roads and women’s rights: Raising awareness about the impact of road crashes on women and advocating for their rights is crucial. Observances like the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims and International Widows’ Day play a key role in highlighting these issues and working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
This year’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims slogan, “remember, support, act,” underscores the need for collective action in addressing the road safety crisis and its hidden impact on women worldwide.