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Touching Tale: Challenges Of Widowhood In Nigeria - Nairaland / General - Nairaland

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Touching Tale: Challenges Of Widowhood In Nigeria by Nobody: 9:13am On Jul 18, 2015
[b]Your husband is dead. It’s your last thought in the night before you go to sleep and your first thought in the morning. You feel his presence, hear his laughter as though he is still with you, yet you are all alone staring into space with a vacuum inside of you. You do things alone that you’d normally do together. The husband with whom you have built dreams and aspirations about the future of your immediate family is suddenly no more.

His family that once cherished you now treats you as a pariah. The general message is simple – she killed him. It is conveyed spoken and unspoken. You are considered bad luck, a witch, and a prostitute. The change is difficult to comprehend. You wonder why it should be you. “Why me?” You mumble every night with confusion and despair on the bed that once brought you comfort, joy and peace. You battle with reality and wish it’s all a dream. But it never seems to go away. It’s real. It’s your reality, an unpleasant, heartrending reality.

The devastating effect and pain of losing her sweetheart is more than just loneliness for Nne, a mother of two from Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State. Nne is an abbreviation of her middle name. She’s agreed to our interview on the condition that we conceal her full identity. She’s presently lodged in a legal battle with her in-laws over two of her husband’s properties in Lagos, where they lived and work until his death two years ago. To be able to make a legal claim to the properties, Nne says her in-laws had gone to forge documents claiming that her late husband willed the property to them.

“My husband didn’t write any will but they and their lawyer have gone to manufacture a will claiming that he only willed to me and his two sons the four-bedroom house where we now live. Two of my husband’s three cars were sold to bury him,” laments the high school teacher who today struggles to provide for her sons aged 14 and 11.

“The fake will they manufactured claimed that his landed property in Aba should be sold to take care of his aged mother. I have no problem with that if that’s truly the will of my late husband. The problem is – it isn’t,” she insists.

The plot to dispossess Nne of her late husband’s properties started a month before her husband died. “When it became obvious that he will not survive the cancer, they came suggesting that one of the two houses be sold and the money used to fly him abroad for further treatment. My husband rejected that saying that’s the only major thing he is leaving behind for his two sons.”

Left to raise their children alone, many widows in the Igbo communities of South East Nigeria barely have time to grieve for long. Even more agonizing is the discovery that in-laws aren’t as sympathetic as you expect they should. Even before the dead is buried, a big scramble has begun for his belongings with nobody consulting you.

In these communities, widowhood represents a “social death” for women. It is not merely that they lose their husbands – often the main breadwinner and supporter of their children – but widowhood robs them of their status and consigns them to the very margins of society where they suffer the most extreme forms of discrimination, stigma and deprivation.

Many widows in Njikoka fall within the poorest of the poor and least protected by the law because their lives are determined by local, patriarchal interpretations of tradition, custom, and religion. Unmarried women are the property and under the control of their fathers; married women belong to their husbands.

When Adaku’s husband died in 2005, her husband’s people said she killed him. She was forced to drink the bathwater from the corpse to prove her innocence. She was forced to shave her hair completely and wear black mourning attire for a month during which she was confined indoors. “I was made to sit naked on the floor for a week without bath with the corpse,” she recalls, tears rolling down her chick. “I was humiliated. I was really, really humiliated,” she told The Graphic.

In some parts of Ogidi and Nanka communities, widows may be confined indoors for up to six months or a year as part of mourning ritual. In Aguata, a community in Anambra State, a widow could be prohibited from washing, even in her period. In some cases, they are required to sit naked on a mat and to ritually cry and scream at specific times of the day and night. During this period she wears attire called “ogodo upa” i.e. mud cloth. At the expiration of the initial seven days, she replaces the cloth with another cloth called “ikpim”, that is, a black mourning dress that she wears for a complete year or six months as the case may be. Also common among the community is “etu afa”, which means “praise naming” another ritual the widow performs compulsorily on the demised husband for three times a day.

In some of these communities, the widow is forbidden to see her husband’s corpse; she does not buy or sell in the market during this period. She is circumvented like death and men see her and run away from her. The dominance of strong-held traditions and conservative religious groups, including the Catholic Church in this community has helped suffocate efforts at reform.

Kate Oforma, a widow from Owerri lost her husband in 2004. A teacher in the day and a trader in the evening, Oforma has tried several jobs just to, as she puts it, “make ends meet”. The challenge is “it has refused to meet”. The in-laws confiscated all her husband’s property after he died. She had four kids with her late husband. “My husband left me and our four children for another woman. Two years after he returned, and months later fell sick and died. His family accused me of killing him. I was forced to sleep with the corpse for four days without food during which native doctors were brought in to perform some rituals,” she said. After her innocence was proved, she was forced out of her husband’s home with her kids without any support. During this period her friends deserted her as her in-laws told them she was a witch.

It’s patrilineal society; it is a man’s world. Nobody accuses the man when the wife dies. “Even if the woman died as a result of intense beating by the man, no one cares. It’s only always the woman that’s suspected. Just the same way it’s okay for the man to keep other women outside marriage, but a taboo if a woman dares that,” she says. “It’s a highly unfair and discriminatory system that must change,” she insists.

Mrs. Oforma has not tested for HIV/AIDS since her husband died. She believes she doesn’t have the virus. “It’s 11 years now since he died, if I have AIDS I would have died since then. Again it’s not proven that he died of AIDS,” she says. “I don’t even want to think of it. The thought itself is far more killing than the virus itself. It’s not my portion,” she dismisses religiously.

This type of practice is not synonymous with the Ibo’s alone. In some parts of Kogi State the story is almost the same. In Igala land to be precise, the moment a man dies the relatives go after whatever he left behind and take over everything, not minding whether the man has children or not. In some cases if the woman is not careful, she will be eliminated spiritually.

Amina Omede from Aikpele in Igala-Mela Local Government Ankpa of Kogi State lost her husband in their fourth year of marriage in Lagos. While the burial was going on, her husband’s relatives left the village for Lagos to pack the man’s belongings without her knowledge. It was after the burial she discovered what happened. Confused and scared, she kept her cool and immediately after the burial she was ejected from her husband’s house in the village and asked to go and mourn her husband in her village. In her words: ‘Though I lost everything but I still thank God I and my children are alive, since I was working before my husband’s death. I have been using my income to take care of my children’’.

Eke Achile never lived to tell her own story. Her husband died when she was carrying their third issue. In her own case she was accused of killing her husband to take over the man’s property; even the medical report which revealed the true cause of the man’s death did not pacify them. The man was said to have died of complication arising from cirrhosis is of the liver but his relatives still insisted that the wife was responsible for his death.

They threatened to avenge their brother’s death after taking possession of all the man’s properties. They ejected her from the family compound and forced her back to her maternal home. Three days later, she fell sick and died barely one month after her husband’s death. Her children are then left at the mercy of those wicked relatives.

Barrister Ezekiel Vivien, the principal partner of Eva-Marvin Solicitors in Lagos and author of Unveiling Widowhood and the Diary of a Widow, believes that there is urgent need to provide for widowhood rights in the Nigerian constitution. “I’ve gone through the constitution and did not see any provision for the rights of the widow, not even in the human rights section of the constitution.”

Vivien, a widow herself, was not maltreated by her husband’s people after he died. “The system is generally unfair to widows. Most cultures in Nigeria criminalize widowhood. That’s what I want to change.” As a lawyer Vivien has represented a number of widows who were maltreated by their in-laws. “The gruesome treatment is real and many women suffer it,” she says.

Widowhood is often associated with pain, grief and depression, especially for women who have no education, skill or business to fall back on. But upon realization of this ugly societal trend, more than few non-governmental organizations have evolved to ensure that these women survive and really get a good deal, despite their situation.

In different parts of Nigeria, the states of widows vary, depending on ethnicity and culture. In some cultures, the moment a man dies, his belongings are taken away from the widow by his relatives, leaving her with little or in most cases, nothing to survive on.

It is more pathetic when the poor widow has nothing to fall back on; she is left alone, rejected and abandoned to wallow in abject poverty with her children. This ugly situation has forced many widows to resort to various means of survival. Prostitution and begging are just a few. Most times, many of them find themselves at the mercy of their dead husband’s relatives, many of whom may want them as a second wife.

In the case of Esther Bako, a 35-year-old widow who resides in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), she had a grinding machine, which was the only means of survival for her and her four children, until sometime last year when armed robbers came visiting and took it away.

Crying inconsolably while narrating her ordeal, she revealed that for her, widowhood has become a register of misery. “Since the death of my husband in 2005, my four children and I have been trying to survive with the little money I make from the machine. After the robbers took it away, it has not been easy. Most times, when I need to pay my rent, I have to visit the farm so that I can raise the money.”They are one of the most vulnerable in the society, they are exposed to indiscriminate abuses in all aspects of their lives, and they bear the scars of their stigmatization in a society whose sensibility has been lost to a jaded conscience.” Such anonymous oddity captures the plight of widows in Nigeria.
Nigerian widows like other widows across the world, belong to the downtrodden class, whose voices are mostly represented by Non-Governmental Organizations, civil society and human rights groups, who raise concern over the sordid condition to which widows are subjected. A lawyer, Mrs. Amiesimaka said widows in Nigeria have suffered grave indignity through unconscionable cultural practices and other social inbalances and restrictions that debase their sense of existence. She decried the traumatic experiences which widows go through in their daily lives, which are mostly recounted during counseling as a legal practitioner.
Women should empower themselves by engaging in a trade or profession so that their world does not come crashing at the death of their husband, they should not lose hope in live, but always live a cautious live so as not to destroy their image in the society.
Some NGO’s hide under the guise of window’s advocacy and empowerment to exploit and divert resources meant to cushion their suffering into their personal wealth.
Widowhood should not be seen as an opportunity to attain instant fame, as its alleged that some leaders of widows association in the country are concerned about their personal glory rather than defending the cause of the widows.
The years ahead would decide whether the Nigerian society would yield to the clarion call of passion and institutional concern towards alleviating the scourge of widowhood.[/b]


Cc lalasticlala Ishilove sad

Re: Touching Tale: Challenges Of Widowhood In Nigeria by rane06(f): 9:28am On Jul 18, 2015
Its a pity.
Re: Touching Tale: Challenges Of Widowhood In Nigeria by BlissB(f): 10:03am On Jul 18, 2015
Widows are really suffering in Nigeria..........its even better now unlike in those days.....i remember 1 of my mum's frnd.....she married a yoruba man....d lady saw hell on earth when he died 2006.....she n her 3 children had to stay in wit us for almost a year....then her commitee of frnds contributed money to start up a biznex 4 her....today she n her children her doin fine but she is forever grateful to all her frnds......Women and girls no mata hw it is go to school or if u hate skul,learn any handwork or go into buisness....don't rely on your husband alone cos if death blow come and you are not working.....SUFFER becomes your husband.......those who have ears let them hear ooooo

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Re: Touching Tale: Challenges Of Widowhood In Nigeria by Nobody: 11:18am On Jul 18, 2015
Widows are really suffering in Nigeria..........its even better now unlike in those days.....i remember 1 of my mum's frnd.....she married a yoruba man....d lady saw hell on earth when he died 2006.....she n her 3 children had to stay in wit us for almost a year....then her commitee of frnds contributed money to start up a biznex 4 her....today she n her children her doin fine but she is forever grateful to all her frnds......Women and girls no mata hw it is go to school or if u hate skul,learn any handwork or go into buisness....don't rely on your husband alone cos if death blow come and you are not working.....SUFFER becomes your husband.......those who have ears let them hear ooooo

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