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African Wonder Women to demystify myths on widowhood

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
12 February 2022   |   4:05 am
To redefine widowhood, improve relationships and encourage women to speak up against the stigma, stereotypes and biases they experience, African Wonder Women Organisation (AWWO) is set to hold a virtual event that discusses emotions.

Princess Folaji

To redefine widowhood, improve relationships and encourage women to speak up against the stigma, stereotypes and biases they experience, African Wonder Women Organisation (AWWO) is set to hold a virtual event that discusses emotions.

The event themed, ‘Every Emotion Is Valid’ will billed to take place on Sunday, February 13, 2022.

According to the convener, Princess Folaji Fasanya-Omoyeni, the conference is for women, especially African widows both in Africa and in Diaspora.

The AWWO was birthed following the loss of Fasanya-Omoyeni’s husband at the onset of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is an initiative that I set up while grieving the loss of my husband during the pandemic. On the back of my experience; the biases, stigmas, stereotypes and name-calling I personally went through, I realised that being able to express myself, share my thoughts and feelings empowered me, helped me understand my emotions and encouraged me to find healthy outlets for expressing them,” she said.

Fasanya-Omoyeni noted that while grieving the loss of her husband, she connected with widows and others grieving the loss of their loved ones, who also talked about their losses and let her know how her ability to articulate her feelings and emotions during her grief had inspired them.

“So, it occurred to me that we needed to do more of this talking, we needed to encourage African widows to express our feelings and let the world know the treatment African widows face because what we experience following the loss of our husbands or partners, is totally different to what other widows around the world experience,” she said.

Though the creative IT consultant and fashion entrepreneur based in the United Kingdom (UK), she still experienced stigma and biases whilst living in the Diaspora.

She continued: “Growing up in Africa, I know from what I read and what people talked about that, widows living in Africa experience these biases but I never actually imagined that widows residing in Diaspora would also experience similar degrading treatment.

“Hence, AWWO’s aim is of redefining widowhood and giving African widows and women a voice, the tools to improve relationships and a safe place to express their emotions, not only as widows living in Africa but also those in Diaspora.

“Our focus is on African widows because what we experience is highly degrading and humiliating and we need to partner with others working on the same vision of putting a stop to these appalling treatment of African widows.”

While noting that every widow’s experience is different, Fasanya-Omoyeni said that African widows all experience biases in one form or another, regardless of status or education, whether in Diaspora or Africa.

She said, “The biases we experience vary, but they are still demeaning and degrading; they still infringe on our rights, beliefs, persons and finances. The distinction might be that there are laws in Diaspora that prevent your deceased spouse’s relatives from coveting what you and your late husband both worked for.

“The legal system in the UK, where I live, even goes further to state clearly the percentage of any estate left behind that should go to the living spouse, however, the name calling and abusive treatment is still experienced.”

According to her, the social status of a widow in Africa means nothing to those who are out there to deprive the widows of their rights and dignity do not believe that widows deserve any respect, empathy or support for their loss.

“You deserve nothing. The injustice they perpetrate puts every widow in a box of, ‘you are a widow and you should be punished for the loss of your husband,’ as such, even when it comes to financial support or ‘inheritance,’ you are not worthy of consideration, regardless of your contributions to your marriage. You lose your husband, you lose everything.”

Fasanya-Omoyeni is an IT consultant, a creative entrepreneur and social entrepreneur. She is a multiple award winning fashion designer, and Creative Director of her UK based clothing line, Ffolaji London.

She is also founder of the non-profit organisation, Women In Creative Enterprise (WICE), which aims at promoting creativity, digital skills and leadership in young women and girls.