With smiles on their faces and shoulders held high, widows in their hundreds celebrated their Valentine party in grand style on Wednesday. The ‘Head High International Organization’, a Non Governmental Organisation for widows, gathered widows together at the VGINIS hall in Yaba axis of Lagos, as part of its visions to give succor to widows on a day famously celebrated as lover’s day all over the world.
These women have no husbands or supporters anymore. They are left to cater for children single-handedly in a society where forces against single-women are on the increase. Head-High foundation did not, however, leave these women to bow their heads in shame or feel irrelevant, rather, they gave hope to those who felt they were hopeless and had their heads high again.
Highly respected female personalities were present at the event. Personalities such as Her Excellency, Dame Abimbola Fashola, wife of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing; Honourable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Mrs. Lola Akande represented by Jumoke Odusanmi; Mrs. Laide Latinwa representing the Honourable commissioner of youth and sports.
Showers of love flooded the arena as warm hugs, handshakes of hopes were exchanged among the widows and the trustees of the organization. There were also souvenirs distributed to the widows in the spirit of the season.
While rendering her welcome address, the executive director of Head High International Organization, Pastor (Mrs.) Tinu Odugbemi established the purpose of the gathering. According to her, the Valentine love feast is a way to reach out to those who might be missing their loved ones during Valentine and may be feeling lonely and neglected; setting up a platform for widows to mix with peers, relax, network, be encouraged and enlightened also reconstructing love both in pattern and expression at Valentine season.
She added that at the 16th year of the organization, it has really attracted widows whose loves had been impacted in one way or the other, “many of our widows have been empowered through our skill acquisition schemes and at least 280 women and girls including widows and their daughters and 17 men have benefitted from these schemes”
She, however appealed to the widows to help the organization with its social and skills centre currently under construction at Isolo and to use the skills acquired to benefit themselves and the society at large.
While rendering the keynote address titled ‘Not without purpose’, Her Excellency, Dame Abimbola Fashola encouraged the women to truly keep their heads high and see God as their husbands.
She stated that there is no woman God created without a purpose whether widow or not but that the difference lies in the nature of the assignment given to each person and individual discharge of duties assigned them by God. She asserted that a woman was created by God to have dominion and nurture the earth.
She then enjoined the women to live impactful lives as expected by God and pray for other people around them because if everybody engages in selfish prayers, at a time of need, there would be nobody to pray for them.
Before rounding off her speech, Her Excellency gave the widows three key areas to improve upon in order to live impactful lives “First and foremost, you have to love God; Secondly, love people around you and when you do that God averts evil for you. Also, take care of yourselves. Eat the right meals, use the right drugs because health is wealth.”
She also encouraged them to teach their children to love God, let them develop personal relationships with God and see how things would turn out for them. “And you shouldn’t be complaining instead you should give thanks, because it is you that is blessed, you are not the dead one, you are alive, you are not in the hospital neither were you brought here on a wheel chair”.
She also advised widows to learn a vocational skill to empower themselves and try to learn something new every year. She enjoined them to make their children acquire skills too asides formal education. “Anything a child wants to do, let him do it, some of you parents, simply because you don’t want people to mock you, you push your children to University. In as much as there is nothing bad with a University degree, I decided not to attend one and I didn’t, I made up my mind to be a secretary and today I am one and proud of it”
The state Commissioner of Youth and Sports duly represented by Laide Latinwa encouraged the women to endeavour to engage in activities that would make their impact felt even by the unborn generation.
She also encouraged women whose lives have been touched by the head-high international organization to help lift other widows around them, “let the lifting efforts be multiplied”, she said.
In her message, the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty alleviation, Dr. Lola Slander duly represented by Jumoke Odusanmi, established the sufferings of widows in a typical African setting highlighting the inhumane treatments they are made to go through even in the 21st century of which Nigerian widows are no exception.
She, however, believes that it is time for women to come together to help tackle the challenges such as violence and discrimination against widows of all ages, “we must ensure that widows are well treated with equal opportunities for education and participation in the economy.”
The honourable commissioner also reiterated the efforts of the ministry towards poverty alleviation for widows through the skills acquisition schemes and programs organized by the ministry at intervals, “we would not relent in our campaign for women emancipation and empowerment. In the ministry of women affairs alone, there exists eighteen skill acquisition schemes established to empower young people and women across the state, most especially, widows. It is worthy to note that the short term and long term trainings are totally free of charge.”.
Some of the widows shared their experiences with New Telegraph one of which is Mrs Justina Ugwu, a mother of four children, who had lost her husband since 2006. She lamented that since the death of her husband life has been tough and hellish but with God by her side, she was able to overcome as three of her children had been in the higher institution one of which is currently in the compulsory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC). “It was not easy at all. My husband’s family abandoned me and the children to survive alone and God helped us. I am a teacher in a private school so what I’m earning is just peanut so it was difficult for me when my first child gained admission into the University but God saw us through. I give him all the glory. ”
Mrs. Ogunmade Juliet stated that it has not been an easy journey since there was no one to support her, though her husband’s younger brother tried to make some efforts, he could not cope with it. “I have lost my husband since 33 years ago now. I never enjoyed my marriage because my husband died young. He just celebrated his 45 year old birthday. He had future plans for us but death cheated us. Since then, I have been running here and there to train my children to the level they are now and truly, God has always been faithful”.
She said that she appreciates the woman of God that have been helping widows and prays that God takes her higher.
Deaconess Busola Shomade, a mother of three, who lost her husband since year 2000 said that widowhood has not been easy on her. She described it as a tough one, that sometimes when a widow wakes up in the morning, her next option might be to cry knowing that her husband is nowhere but that God has helped her through it all.
“When I lost my husband, my mother-in-law sent I and the children out if the house so we had to look for our own apartment. But then we continued collecting the rent but later she stopped us from collecting the rent and took over though she promised to send us feeding money but we didn’t see anything. However, when my daughter gained admission into Yaba Tech last year, she gave us 20,000 but one thing is that God has always been my husband. He has always been there for me”.
Also speaking, Deaconess Opeyemi Falaye, a member of the trustee board stated that everything was rough but with God, it went well. She said that her husband died in year 1999 and her first son was in the first year in the University, the second was writing his senior WAEC while the last born was in his penultimate year in the secondary school.
“But today, with God by my side, all of them have graduated, they are doing well, they are in good places of work and they are taking care of me but initially, I thought I was going to die, I could not go to parties, I could not mingle with people, even friends that promised heaven and earth abandoned us. Initially, I was annoyed but later I realized that everybody has his cross to bear. So, I give God all the glory”
In an interview with Journalists, Pastor Mrs. Odugbeni spoke on what led her to establish the organisation
She said that as the first female pastor among her peers, she felt an urge to influence other women’s lives, “so I made up my mind to read the two books named after women in the Bible. I started with the book of Ruth because I was quite familiar with Esther. It was then that God arrested me, he showed me that there are different categories of widows.
With the information God gave me, the first thing that came to my mind as a journalist was to start a magazine or newsletter for widows but later we started with a Television series on NTA ten and with the way things turned out, I knew that was what God wanted me to do. This later led to a widows it held at Isolo where widows spoke at length and wanted more meetings. That was what led to this”.
Speaking on the challenges of the organization, she mentioned finance as one of the major challenges of the organisation and called on the government and other corporate bodies for assistance. She also expressed her gratitude to the sponsors and donors of the Head high international organization.
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