THISDAY

Ame­lio­rat­ing Plight of Wi­d­ows

Sun­day Ehi­gia­tor re­ports that in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Wi­d­ows Day, the Rose of Sharon Foun­da­tion re­cently ame­lio­rated the plight of about 3000 wi­d­ows by em­pow­er­ing them

- Society · Nigeria · The International · United Nations · United Nations · Lagos · Victoria’s Secret · Onyeka Onwenu · Port Harcourt · God · United States of America · MMM · Yaba College of Technology · Folorunso Alakija · Pink Rose

Un­der the fed­eral law of Nige­ria, if a mar­ried man dies, a por­tion of his as­sets au­to­mat­i­cally goes to his wife. But in many parts of the coun­try, wi­d­ows are de­nied the right to in­herit their late hus­band’s es­tate. In some cases, the fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties don't know the law, or some­times chose to ig­nore it

The In­ter­na­tional Wi­d­ows day is a day set aside and rat­i­fied by the United Na­tions (UN) to ad­dress the poverty and in­jus­tice faced by mil­lions of wi­d­ows and their de­pen­dents, with the pri­mary aim of rais­ing aware­ness to the global is­sues of wid­ow­hood. Hence, the Rose of Sharon Foun­da­tion (RoSF), as part of its man­date in ame­lio­rat­ing the plight of wi­d­ows, re­cently car­ried out an out­reach which was largely at­tended by over 3000 wi­d­ows, both from within and out­side La­gos. Held in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mass Med­i­cal Mis­sion (MMM) at the Yaba Col­lege of Tech­nol­ogy La­gos, they pro­vided relief ma­te­ri­als to wi­d­ows in other states si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Com­mit­ment to Wi­d­ows

In her ad­dress, the Founder, Rose of Sharon Foun­da­tion, Mrs. Folorunso Alak­ija pointed out the foun­da­tion’s com­mit­ment to al­ways pro­tect the rights of wi­d­ows.

Ac­cord­ing to her, "the United Na­tions ob­serve June 23 as In­ter­na­tional Wi­d­ows day to draw at­ten­tion to the voices and ex­pe­ri­ences of wi­d­ows, and to gal­vanise the unique sup­port that they need. Mil­lions of wi­d­ows iden­ti­fied all over the world are con­stantly faced with ne­glects, ex­ploita­tion and in­jus­tice. They are of­ten times de­nied the right to their hus­bands prop­er­ties, evicted from their homes, and some are even forced into un­wanted mar­riages or trau­ma­tis­ing wid­ow­hood cul­tures. They are stig­matsed, shun and shamed.

"Many of these abuses go un­no­ticed. And some­times even nor­malised within our so­ci­ety. The per­pe­tra­tors of these nu­mer­ous ac­tiv­i­ties are of­ten never called to jus­tice. These is be­cause they are pro­tected by age old tra­di­tions, na­tive laws and cus­toms that have been ac­cepted as the norms. And they are there­fore not chal­lenged or even re­stricted.

"How­ever, we at the Rose of Sharon Foun­da­tion are de­ter­mined not to al­low these acts to go un­no­ticed. We will con­tin­u­ously fight for their rights and pro­vide suc­cor for them. 2019 marks the sixth year that we will be ob­serv­ing the in­ter­na­tional wi­d­ows day with the rest of the world. I be­lieve that by the end of the day, we would have drawn the world’s at­ten­tion to their chal­lenges.

"The theme for this year's pro­gram is 'Up­hold­ing The Hu­man Rights of Wi­d­ows for Law and Cul­tural Prac­tices'. Nige­ria’s con­sti­tu­tion, sup­ported by In­ter­na­tional law, em­pha­sises equal rights of women. But equal rights are dif­fi­cult to en­force es­pe­cially in a so­ci­ety where in­equal­ity is a long stand­ing tra­di­tion. Un­der the fed­eral law of Nige­ria, if a mar­ried man dies, a por­tion of his as­sets au­to­mat­i­cally goes to his wife. But in many parts of the coun­try, wi­d­ows are de­nied the right to in­herit their late hus­band’s es­tate. In some cases, the fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties don't know the law, or some­times chose to ig­nore it. Un­der cus­tom­ary or re­li­gious law, rights of in­her­i­tance are not granted to wives and fe­male chil­dren."

Health Chal­lenges

Speak­ing with THISDAY, the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, Mass Med­i­cal Mis­sion, Dr. Abia Nzelu said the cen­ter of all widow’s chal­lenge is health. Ac­cord­ing to her, "the plight of wi­d­ows are so many but can be sum­marised by say­ing they are in­vis­i­ble women with in­vis­i­ble prob­lems. They are op­pressed, and de­nied their rights in most places, es­pe­cially in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try as ours. The mo­ment their hus­bands die, they are faced with a lot of chal­lenges, some from the ex­tended fam­i­lies who come to take force­ful pos­ses­sion of their be­long­ings, mak­ing them pass through strug­gles to take care of their chil­dren.

"At the same cen­ter of their prob­lem, I al­ways say it is health. In the first place, they are wi­d­ows be­cause their hus­bands died of a con­di­tion of one dis­ease or the other. Even if it is ac­ci­dent, it is also re­lated to health, be it not hav­ing ac­cess to med­i­cal care at all or qual­ity med­i­cal care be­fore he died. So health to me is the root of widow’s prob­lem, be­cause it's one of those fac­tors that can drag them into poverty.

“By the fact that their hus­bands have died, and they have lost sup­ports from their hus­bands, they are al­ready down. And then, when they now start to have health is­sues, for the fact that they have to fend for their chil­dren most of the times, they won't bother to take care of them­selves. They don't even have the time be­cause, they are al­ways here and there work­ing tire­lessly just to take care of their chil­dren. Hence, they are more likely to fall prey to few of these chronic dis­eases that could have been pre­vented by just a rou­tine screen­ing.

"Wi­d­ows face most of all these chal­lenges, but at the cen­ter of it re­mains health is­sues which drives them into poverty un­less they have ac­cess to good health care. And the rea­son why to­day is in­ter­na­tional wi­d­ows day is to draw at­ten­tion to the plights of wi­d­ows, and to

When a man looses his wife, right there at the burial, they would be parad­ing young girls in front of him to chose among them which one he wants. But then, if it is a woman, you must be the one that killed your hus­band

the fact that they are alone and de­prived. Peo­ple should stop op­press­ing wi­d­ows. The in­jus­tice peo­ple met on wi­d­ows is just un­bear­able, they should stop do­ing that. They should know that these women are hu­man be­ings them­selves, and they be­com­ing wi­d­ows wasn't what they wished for them­selves when they en­tered into mar­riage, but life hap­pened.

"For those men that are mar­ried, they should know that they are hu­man be­ings just as their wives and they like­wise have their fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights that needs to be sup­ported so to help them bet­ter bring up their chil­dren to be­come of value to the so­ci­ety. Be­cause if wi­d­ows keep be­ing op­pressed, de­spite their poor sta­tus, they may end up bring­ing up a way­ward chil­dren."

Part­ner­ship

On part­ner­ship with Rose of Sharon Foun­da­tion, she said, "The Pink Rose is cre­ated to give med­i­cal sup­port us­ing mo­bile cancer cen­tres. One of these mo­bile cancer cen­tres was do­nated by the founder of Rose of Sharon Foun­da­tion, Mrs. Folorun­sho Alak­ija, which we have been us­ing to go round the coun­try, from one com­mu­nity to the other, churches mosques, mar­kets and other ru­ral ar­eas to carry out free out­reaches to en­sure that lives are saved and peo­ple have ac­cess to rou­tine and world class pre­ven­tive health care. And just be­cause she re­alised that health is just at the cen­ter of every prob­lem wi­d­ows face in Nige­ria, she de­cided to in­cul­cate free med­i­cal ser­vices into the pro­gram.

"So for this par­tic­u­lar out­reach we are con­duct­ing com­mon cancer screen­ing, gen­eral health screen­ing, es­pe­cially for things like hy­per­ten­sion which is very com­mon with wi­d­ows. We have the eye and den­tal screen­ing. And the good thing about these is that, af­ter they have been screened for any of these es­pe­cially gen­eral can­cers such as celvic cancer, and are di­ag­nosed to be at risk, they will be treated right here in these our mo­bile med­i­cal out­reach vans. Be­cause in­side it we have mam­mo­gram, that can be used to treat breast cancer, we have in here the­atre for fol­low-up etc. We also giv­ing out free eye glasses, and free den­tal treat­ments."

Per­sonal Ex­pe­ri­ence

Shar­ing her per­sonal life ex­pe­ri­ence with wi­d­ows at the event, iconic mu­si­cian Onyeka On­wenu said, "My mother got mar­ried for the first time when she was about 19 years old. Un­for­tu­nately, just about a year later her hus­band died. Eight days later she had my el­dest sis­ter, and the fam­ily of her hus­band in­sisted that she has to marry the younger brother of her late hus­band. But my mother wasn't the kind of per­son that you will tell who to marry, so she said no, and they took the child from her. For sev­eral years, she had no ac­cess to her daugh­ter. But when she was grown up, she came back to marry my fa­ther. And the man was one of those very stu­dious men, and they be­gan to strug­gle to­gether even through when he went over­seas to study. And when he was just about to be made the min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion; just two weeks be­fore then, he died in a car ac­ci­dent.

“So you can imag­ine the pres­sure on my mother for the sec­ond time. And she was only 36 years old. I was her last child and the ap­ple of my fa­ther's eye. I was daddy's girl, to­tally his fa­vorite. He won't eat with­out me and most times take me wher­ever he goes. But he died when I was about five years old. So be­ing raised by a widow, I am fa­mil­iar with the is­sues sur­round­ing wi­d­ows be­ing dis­cussed here. I re­mem­ber my un­cle com­ing to Port Harcourt which was were we lived, and sold my fa­ther's land. And my fa­ther bought that land with money he bor­rowed from my mother. And this my un­cle, his chil­dren were all be­ing raised by my mother, she didn't send them away.

"This man came, was stay­ing in our guest room, sold the land, and was car­ry­ing the money with him while he was still stay­ing with us, and we had no idea till he left. Thank God for my aunty; my fa­ther's sis­ter, they now went and changed every­thing, cause my fa­ther didn't leave a will, he was only 40 years old when he passed on. So my mother was able to get a house, where we all lived. It had only been built up till foun­da­tion, my mother con­tin­ued. Oh I re­mem­ber my mother to­day, she was a strong and brave women. That's why I look at women like you and have noth­ing to say than tell you from the bot­tom of my heart that I love you. Be­cause I know that the life that you are liv­ing is very dif­fi­cult. So­ci­ety does not help you, so­ci­ety does not give you the re­gard that is due to you.

"When a man looses his wife, right there at the burial, they would be parad­ing young girls in front of him to chose among them which one he wants. But then, if it is a woman, you must be the one that killed your hus­band. I was raised by a very hard work­ing widow. And she raised me up to mas­ters de­gree, I went to school in the United States, and I came back. And I must tell you, that there is a type of train­ing that school can't give you, only your mother can give you such train­ing."

Cul­tural Ori­en­ta­tion

Also speak­ing, the Act­ing Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, Na­tional In­sti­tute for Cul­tural Ori­en­ta­tion, Louis Ori­omala said, "The root cause of the ill treat­ment meted on wi­d­ows for me is cul­ture; our way of life. It is our be­lief, and it would take time to change, and it is con­stant ded­i­ca­tion to re­ori­en­ta­tion. For ex­am­ple, it took a Mary Slessor for us to know that twins are not evil. That is the prob­lem we are hav­ing and why I would main­tain that we need to in­volve our tra­di­tional rulers. That is when our prob­lem would be solved. It is not through law that these can be solved. It is cul­ture, our be­lieve. As the Bi­ble says, as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.

“So if you don't change that pat­tern of think­ing, there is no law that would help you change it. If tra­di­tional rulers as the cus­to­dian of cus­toms and tra­di­tions buy into the idea of de­fend­ing wi­d­ows rights, and they speak up to the peo­ple that it is wrong, the peo­ple won't ar­gue. So the thrust of the work is in the tra­di­tion.

"And for mar­ried men, I'll ad­vise them not to bring their fam­ily into every mat­ter in the home. Let your wife know so much about you so that, per­ad­ven­ture any­thing hap­pens, she would be able to pro­tect her­self and the chil­dren. So don't bring your fam­ily into every thing. Let your wife be in charge of most things about you, so that should any­thing hap­pen sud­denly, your wife can eas­ily take pos­ses­sion of your be­long­ings."

 ??  ?? Bauchi State cel­e­bra­tion of In­ter­na­tional Wi­d­ows day by RoSF
Bauchi State cel­e­bra­tion of In­ter­na­tional Wi­d­ows day by RoSF
 ??  ?? Cel­e­bra­tion of In­ter­na­tional Wi­d­ows day
Cel­e­bra­tion of In­ter­na­tional Wi­d­ows day
 ??  ?? Some of the wi­d­ows un­der­go­ing health screen­ing
Some of the wi­d­ows un­der­go­ing health screen­ing
 ??  ?? L-R: Ms Com­fort Lamptey, Onyeka On­wenu and Mrs Ola­jumoke Barkare
L-R: Ms Com­fort Lamptey, Onyeka On­wenu and Mrs Ola­jumoke Barkare

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