Widowhood in my definition is the death of a woman’s spouse through natural or man made causes many times characterized by heart brokenness and confusion on how to carry on with life. For Women who had loving husbands their death would be very traumatic as the woman sees her world crashing down with her thinking not only of his loss but also how she alone would take care of their children as the responsibilities of two persons becomes that of one person while at the same time facing her in-laws who would never stop inquiring about the cause of his death from their only suspect-Wife and woe betide her if when her husband was alive she was unfriendly to them. If the woman was solely dependent on her husband, she would begin to go into depression as she does not have the financial capabilities of purchasing her least basic needs not to talk of major needs. She then would of course be at the mercy of her late husband’s groups (religious or cultural) who would financially task themselves in ensuring that she and the children does not suffer-which of course is not sustainable.
Widowhood comes with a number of primitive practices which involves the woman shaving her head, sleeping beside the corpse, drinking the water used to bath the corpse, wearing of black gown and many times against her wish marrying the younger brother of her late spouse. I remember my friend Lillian, Lillian was Igbo while her husband was Benin, they were blessed with two beautiful daughters and had a wonderful marriage until December 2009 when she lost her husband in a gory accident along the Benin-Ore road in South-South Nigeria . His body was crushed by a trailer who lost its brake, his body was crushed and it was almost impossible getting the remains of his body for a proper burial. Then my friend’s ordeal started as her in-laws tortured her; they took all her husband’s properties and subjected her to so much stress, that even made her handing over all her husband’s death benefits to them just to have peace but no these in-laws started making un-necessary demands from my friend in the end her health was affected and six months after the death of her husband, Lillian died of an undisclosed ailment leaving behind two beautiful daughters and aged parents.
The injustice against widows are in my viewpoint linked to harmful cultural practices exacerbated by patriarchy, lack of education, and of course gender inequality which promotes the subjugation of women. I feel a number of these practices are still being perpetuated because of the non-implementation of Global and Regional Conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and 1995 Beijing Platform for Women which prioritizes the empowerment of women in addition to the eradication of harmful cultural practices.
Another case study I would like to share is that of my aunty Shade, her husband died of a heart attack in 2012 but after his death and burial no member of her husband’s family had the effrontery to intimidate her not to talk of taking their properties or asking her to perform some hellish traditional practices. Why I Wondered? Because she was an Educated and Empowered Woman and every member of her husband’s family could trace their brother’s success to her creativity, innovation and ingenuity. Albeit the loss of her husband, aunty shade is now using her experience in encouraging all women in the community to be economic reliant while also preparing for unforeseen circumstances by urging their husbands to prepare a will.
In mitigating the injustice against widows there is need to remember their children who can become vulnerable to negative social vices as a result of the mistreatment of their mother and the taking over of their father’s properties leaving them with no money to continue their education and to feed resulting in the ticking time bomb of insurgency, banditry, militancy, human trafficking all of which affects the gross domestic product of the country and giving the country a negative image.
What I find hard to comprehend is that for widowers, they are treated with pity and care, no body subjects them to any inhumane or cruel conditions, the wives properties are not taken from him, his children are not taken from him but instead he is paid series and series of open and nocturnal condolence visits. So why is the case different for women? Could it be that a number of the societies where these acts are done do not respect and value women as well as their rights? It is noteworthy to mention that these nefarious acts would continue if the Girl-Child is not educated, and the absence of mechanisms to empower women. There is the need for Civil Society Organizations and Feminist Organizations to stop handling cosmetically a number of these issues affecting widows but to take the bull by the horn and speak out against the injustice against widows and put pressure on the Government to domesticate international and global conventions which protects the rights of Women and Girls irrespective of their socioeconomic status while also using the new and traditional media in educating Women about these laws as when Women are aware of the law they can use it to liberate themselves.
Now the final word to the women- We must all seek and ensure we are economically empowered as it is only when we are economically empowered that we can free ourselves and children from every chance-medley practices which aims to put us down and limits our capabilities.
# Women and Girls-Our Future.