“To prove that you did not kill your husband, our son, you have to drink this dirty water that we have used in bathing your dead husband,” family members forced my mum. “I am not drinking this water, I did not kill my husband,” my mum replied.
That was the beginning of our problems in life. That was the beginning of my problems.
As young as I was, I could still remember the day I lost my dad. I was only 6 years old, but the pictures of the circumstances surrounding his death are evergreen in my memory. My names are Tapea Gisele, am 25years old. Dad was a soldier, one who served his country diligently. But unfortunately, he fell ill and died as a young soldier. The death of my dad caused so much pain to my mum who had me and my siblings to look after.
When my daddy died, my mum was accused by members of my paternal family, of killing her husband. According to them, she was interested in taking charge his financial benefits in his absence. Mommy went through so much torture from my paternal family as they asked her to drink the water they used in bathing my dad's corpse to prove her innocence. As tradition demands, her hair was shaved after four days. Later on, they asked her to swear an oath in the shrine of a sorcerer that she didn't killed her husband. As if that was not enough, my mum was beaten and treated poorly by her in-laws because they felt she was responsible for daddy’s death and she was also taking daddy’s benefits. The problems continued and finally mommy was deprived of everything she and her husband had worked. All household and landed property was taken away from her; from eating spoons to matrimonial bed. Mommy had to pack her few dresses and those of her children and returned to her father’s compound. She was bound to start life from scratch. She had all her children looking up to her, but there was no one to support her. The struggle was real, the hustle just got started from then on. Mommy did all types of petit trading you can think of, with startup capital as little as $20, just to make ends meet. We had to attend school, and have something to eat, at least, and so mum had to hustle to see us through. Mum was only in her early 30s but she was working tirelessly, working a double day, if not a triple day, just to make her children happy.
As time went on, mommy became very ill and she later on died at the age of 40 leaving me and my 4 siblings all by ourselves. She was a super woman, she fought for her children tirelessly. May her gentle soul rest in peace.
The journey of a full orphan begun from here, for me. I was just 14years old and it was very unbearable for me and my little ones. It was so difficult living in a world without. It came with so many struggles; the uncertainty of the next meal, poor education, lack of finance, vulnerable children, lack of parental guidance, sexual advancements and harassments, lack of control – the list can go on. Things were so hard for us because our father's family who had the means of helping us didn't want to render any form of help because to them we had a witch for a mom but thank God we all worked very hard and our today is better than our yesterday by the grace of God. I can’t recount the struggles I made, I can’t recount the sacrifices I made, I can’t tell of the amount of tears I shed during those dark days – the story is long, really long, but the good news is that we made it. As an orphan, I always reminded myself that my education was key and so I never let any man to deceive me. I battled with it and I got to where I could in my education. So too did my younger ones.
Am actually on a mission to empower orphans in my community. Being an orphan, one who understands the dark moments of orphans, I am ready to stand in the gap for them. Am teaching them how to stay focused and involved in income generating activities that can see them through school. I am already helping a few of them and I am hoping to help more as my resources grow.
To all the widows in the world, I am asking you to be strong and stay focused. Try by all means to send your children to school; they will make you smile tomorrow. For orphans, especially female orphans, and young ladies in general, education and entrepreneurship is very important, ladies should no longer depend on men but rather stand on their feet by engaging themselves in many activities that can help them through life without depending on a man. To our government, I wish they enact laws and follow up to protect widows who face torture after the death of their husbands.