This evocative collection of paintings by British Indian artist Reeta Sarkar reminds us that global humanitarian issues are about people. The plight of widows is shocking in many countries and is graphically depicted in the faces, and the circumstances, shown in these paintings.

In many countries, widows are rejected by their families and community, deprived of possessions and left unable to care for their children. Yet unlike wars and natural disasters, the world is all too often unaware of their plight and they have no-one to turn to. Widows are truly the poorest of the poor, abused, invisible and unheard.

Reeta has chosen three themes – South Asia, Africa and Conflict – to highlight this hidden calamity that directly impacts on half a billion people. Each of these themes highlights an important aspect of the global problem of widowhood.

This collection was first shown at the United Nations in New York from 20 June to 12 July 2011. It formed part of an exhibition – also featuring works by Yoko Ono – to mark the first UN-recognised International Widows Day, an annual day of action to raise awareness and bring justice to the millions who suffer just as those depicted in these paintings.

On 23 June 2012, the exhibition was displayed at 10 Downing Street, London, at a special reception for International Widows Day hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.