No woman, particularly an African woman, prays to be a widow or desires to have a taste of widowhood. But whenever it happens, they not only need sympathy or understanding of their immediate environments or that of the society but deserve every form of respect and the understanding that they need to move on in life, especially the young widows. OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI writes
In many traditional societies, women find themselves left in poverty when their husband dies. In some countries, these women find themselves denied of inheritance and land rights, evicted from their homes, ostracized and abused. The children of widows also often find themselves affected, withdrawn from school and more vulnerable to abuse, especially girl-child(ren).
Most Widows that New Telegraph spoke with, said many years after they lost their husbands, they still couldn’t cope with life smoothly any longer. Indeed, it is difficult to carry on, either ways.
Chineye Martins, a widow and mother of three was thrown out of their 5 bedroom duplex when she lost her husband to road accident. According to her, for 14 months, her in-laws left the corpse of her husband for her to deal with, believing that she was responsible for his death. Later, she said they came round and allowed her to bury him on the condition that she must observe the mourning rite which she considered callous and unhygienic. She refused and had to bury the man with the help of friends and her immediate family. Two weeks after the burial, “my husband’s family came overnight to ask me and the children to leave the house in peace or face the unexpected form of treatment by morning period. By the time, we woke up in the morning; we were faced with five hefty, fierce looking men. Before I could open my mouth to protest, I saw one of them with my children with a warning look that I should be sensible, while the rest men were throwing my belongings outside the house,” she said.
A familiar story with Dorcas Oriyomi, mother of four was given two months to stay in the house she built with her husband, her hair shaved, all the documents of the house taken from her and two cars taken from her. She explained that her in-laws said she only has four girls, no boy for her late husband, hence, no one to carry on the name of their, (her husband). “I was practically naked material wise. My immediate family ( parents and siblings) wanted to react but one of my in-laws warned me to play the role of a fool for the sake of my children. She told me that my reaction could trigger a devastating results.
However, both above mentioned cases said, although, they have moved on to stand on their toes to sustain and take care of their children but still find it difficult without their husbands. Martins and Oriyomi expressed heart grieving stories that it is more like an injurious blow when their children usually the question, “where is daddy, when is daddy coming home.”
In a Zoom meeting organised by Head High International Organisation, a non-governmental organisation for widows, June 23, to mark the International Widow’s Day.
Old and young widows interacted and deliberated on how to forge ahead following the demise of their loved ones. The older widows like Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett, and an International Barrister Margret Owen, encouraged the younger ones among them to have change of hearts that will enable them move on after the loss of their partners.
According to Mrs Ajayi-Lycett, OON, journalist, actress,writer and adviser to Head High Int. Organisation said she developed shortsightedness when she lost her husband. For her, the world crashed but the fact remains that life goes on, one person has go on. It was a tough life to live especially having to explain to children where their daddy is, “it was tough. Tougher is the cultural system that doesn’t seem to support widow,” she said. The fault, she explained that husbands in a way contribute to the inhumanity treatment their wives get after their demise from families. She however advised them (men) to always add their wives as their next of kin.
Barrister Margaret Owen OBE, a widow for 30 years and Widow’s Right Advocate, Founder, women In Peace Through Democracy said widowhood is increasing because of conflict where men are mostly featured and the ravaging Coronavirus disease, so far has killed more men than women.
She advocated for a United Nations desk for widows to address their desperate needs which mostly featured in housing and judiciary support so that they are not homeless and are protected from harsh husband relatives.
Retired Deputy comptroller general of prisons, Folashade Akinwale, widow for 12 years and mother of five, her husband’s death in 2008 was devastating in. According to her, they had planned building a house together. She explained that they had bought a land and laid the foundation in January, unfortunately, he died the following month, February. As devastating as her husband’s death was, she said she had to pick up the pieces of life but the major support was from her church. She said that everyone disappeared from her. But she refused to remarry because her focus was on her children who were mostly hit. “Even though their father was not always there when he was alive, but whenever he was around, they felt his warmth. Till now, we have our moment,” she said.
Mrs Akinwale pointed out that it is important that a woman be empowered because if it happens, the woman is on her own. She went to narrate that aside her boss who helped her with different favourable postings, she believed strongly that it was God. “So far, the journey hasn’t been easy but I thank God for help,”
Her only challenge now is the loneliness that she faces whenever she is alone especially when her children go back to school. “I am missing my husband. Who will stay with me when I’m alone? I am however consoled that that Jesus is my husband,” she said.
Professor Oluyinka Esan highlighted that one major problem for widows is housing. She noted that widows and their daughters are the weakest link, hence, deserve every form of protection. She added woman who wasn’t empowered when her husband was alive will certainly be devastated. And in fact, a woman who has her money or empowered will have a voice in the marriage.
Ajayi-Lycett corroborating pointed out to young widows that remarrying shouldn’t be a problem. They should remarry and normalise their lives. If a woman life is full and balanced, then the society is stable. “Women should galvanise themselves, mobilise themselves and change the old cultural norms, women are actually heroine. We should stop disrespecting ourselves, we should start lobbying for change to take place, and we are strong enough to do that. We are not beggars, we are enough as women, we can do it,” she encouraged.
She pointed out that widows need and crave for support system because grieving is a major illness especially as young widows are mostly faced with issues of cultural clash and their children interest especially sons who will always protect their mothers.
Mrs. Jumoke, a partipants at the zoom meetings said there should be a programme in place to help widows to have reset of mind, they need to be tutored to know that life goes after the loss of their loved ones; it helps them to prepare for challenges ahead of them. “When the mindset is shaped correctly, they will be able to deal with issues appropriately and find out that they can do what they thought they couldn’t do,” she said.
Barr. Obe said the strength of women in solidarity is formidable and to be able to chart forward their course, they need to have men on their sides.
Busola Olamuyiwa, a clinical Psychologist explained why it is difficult for women to move on after the loss of their loved ones. She described it as pathological grieving, situation whereby they hold onto to memories for long time. It comes with symptoms of depression. “Women are made for so much more, unfortunately, they do not know it. For the younger ones, she advised them to remarry and strategies be put in place, mostly programmes that can ensure their peace of their minds and smooth sail of life.