Nigeria

Commissioner, others lament cruel widowhood practices

Akwa Ibom State’s Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, has called on policymakers and other relevant agencies in Nigeria to make deliberate efforts at eliminating barbaric widowhood rites and give widows in the society a sense of belonging.

Akwa Ibom State’s Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, has called on policymakers and other relevant agencies in Nigeria to make deliberate efforts at eliminating barbaric widowhood rites and give widows in the society a sense of belonging.

The Commissioner gave the counsel in her address to mark this year’s International Widows’ Day in Uyo, the state capital.

Adiakpan expressed regret at the various inhuman treatments and deprivations widows were forced to go through by family members over cultural practices, stressing the urgent needs for a redress of these anomalies to guarantee positive lives for the widows and their children.

The Commissioner, who reflected on the theme of this year’s celebration, “Invisible Women… Invisible Problems…” described the theme as apt to invoke love and attract conscious efforts to solving the problems of widowhood in the country.

According to her, the theme pointed to the fact that the death of a spouse brought loneliness to the widow and her problems became invisible to the whole society.

This, she stated, should awaken the urge in everyone to identify and make the problems of widows visible.

She said: “Available statistics indicates that about 258 million widows are in the world and the figures further increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated crisis, which again has negatively impacted on the means of widows’ livelihood globally.

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“Deliberate efforts therefore, must be made by policy makers and all relevant stakeholders to address the issues of existing widows and those widowed by the pandemic.

“To celebrate the International Widows’ Day, we are called upon to spare a moment to assist widows around by raising funds for them, strengthen their capacity to generate income, remove cultural biases, link them up to needed resources, create massive awareness about their plights, drive the wheel of attitudinal change and be a promoter of women’s rights.”

In Akwa Ibom, she said the state government through her Ministry, was building the knowledge base and capacity of young married women to be change agents in their communities, and create awareness on the rights of women to Inheritance, to dignity and to all rights enshrined in the Constitution and other instruments.

These proactive measures, Dr Adiakpan added, would further reduce and minimise hardship that widows faced.

She commended the state government’s efforts in creating a conducive environment for women to thrive and achieve their maximum potentials.

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In a paper titled, “Widowhood Rights and Rewarding Life,” a member of the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA), Austin-Modo Chito, Esq. also frowned at the dehumanising acts meted out to widows in Nigeria.

Chito, who is the Principal Partner of Atium Attorneys, pointed out some of the unconscionable acts on women who are widows to include: Widows sleeping with their deceased husband’s corpses; shaving of widow’s hair; seclusion; wearing of black or white clothes; sleeping and sitting on the floor or mat; and forceful marriage of widows to other members of the deceased husband’s family in a bit to protect family linage among others.

These, Chito noted, were in contrast to the treatment given to bereaved men, who are often given support, comfort and even encouraged to remarry instantly on pretext that, “It’s not good for a man to be alone.”

She called on women who are widows to make use of the provisions in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended that forbade wicked widowhood practices in the country and to seek redress whenever they felt oppressed.

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