115 million

widows world-wide live in deep poverty and are vulnerable to abuse

9 million

women-headed households in Indonesia are unrecognised in law


of single women in Indonesia live below the poverty line and 40% are illiterate


One of the most marginalised and socially excluded groups are poor single women — unmarried mothers, widows, abandoned and divorced women — who often head households with no legal recognition. In Indonesia, 55% of these women live below the poverty line, 40% are illiterate, a third are married before they are 16 and 78% of those divorced cite domestic violence as the cause. These women have little access to legal services and are largely unaware of their legal rights. The criminal justice system, mostly too remote for them to access, deters them even when they do report cases as police either fail to register the case, blame the woman for the crime or take no action. The result is impunity for perpetrators and a culture of complicity.


From 2015-2016, Sisters For Change worked in rural Bantul, Java, Indonesia, with a network of women-headed households. We chose to work in Bantul Regency, Yogyakarta, Java, due to the growing adoption of discriminatory by-laws targeting women and institutionalising gender inequality in the area. We worked with our partners to build their legal knowledge and capacity to speak out against violence against women in their local communities. We trained them as ‘Community Paralegals’ to assist victims in registering cases of violence and engaging with local authorities (police, village leaders, religious leaders and health centres) to improve justice outcomes and support for socially excluded women and girls. Read about our work in our report in partnership with PEKKA Bantul.

11.4 million

women and girls are victims of forced labour globally


potential victims of trafficking or forced labour in the UK alone


of UK victims are trafficked into domestic servitude, prostitution or forced labour


Sisters For Change is working with a range of legal and law enforcement experts and partners across England to improve justice outcomes for women and girl victims of trafficking (trafficked for domestic servitude, street begging, sexual exploitation, benefits fraud or low level criminality like pick-pocketing) and combat discrimination against refugee and migrant workers most at risk of trafficking. Sisters For Change conducts legal audits, public authority monitoring and legal advocacy to address gaps between policy and practice, and challenge systemic discrimination against victims of trafficking and forced labour.


of women killed by a partner or ex-partner in the UK are aged 66 or older


of victims over 60 years old continue living with their abuser while seeking help

40 million

widows live in India, many abandoned and with no financial security or welfare


Older women are more vulnerable to neglect, abuse and violence but are less likely to recognise abusive behaviour and get help. Research has shown that older women are experiencing domestic abuse, often for years or even decades, but are the age group least likely to access support. Barriers to seeking help include fear that other family members would reject them, concern over religious leaders not being supportive, and concern that reporting violence to authorities would lead to more violence (UN, 2017).


In recognising the lack of international standards on the protection of older women, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee adopted General Recommendation No. 27 in 2010  on “older women and protection of their human rights”.


Traditional and cultural practices often mean older women become targeted — for example, in some African countries older single women are accused of being witches. These forms of violence are most often damage to property, being beaten or being burnt.