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Group seek to end discrimination, maltreatment meted on widows

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
04 July 2020   |   3:45 am
The Initiative For Women and Girls Right Advancement (IWOGRA), a not for profit organisation has stressed the need to end all forms of discrimination, violence and maltreatment faced by widows.

The Initiative For Women and Girls Right Advancement (IWOGRA), a not for profit organisation has stressed the need to end all forms of discrimination, violence and maltreatment faced by widows.

In a webinar conference held recently to commemorate the 2020 International Widows’ Day with the theme: ‘Achieving Full Rights and Recognition For Widows in Nigeria’, the group brought to the front burner concerns and interventions made for women while celebrating widows.

According to the founder, IWOGRA, Maryanne Nkechi Obiagbaoso-Udegbunam, the overall situation of widows in Nigeria has been overlooked over the years, adding that Women in Nigeria are faced with series of violence especially after the death of their husbands.

She said, “Widows are subjected to all sorts of dehumanising and degrading treatments that is not limited to having their hairs shaved, made to stay in isolation for a period of time, made to drink the water used in cleaning their late husbands’ decomposed body; they are inherited by any of their late husbands’ brothers as if they were a property subject to being transferred and denied property and inheritance rights.”

“To salvage the situation, laws are being put in place both at the state and federal level for the protection of widows against violence and maltreatment and there is an urgent need for a broad set of strategies that will ensure the full realisation and recognition of widows’ right in Nigeria.

“Hence, we believe that through this webinar on this special occasion of the International Widows’ Day, we will have a great opportunity to review the present situation of our widows and develop strategies for the full protection and recognition of widows in Nigeria as different groups and individuals start to push for an end to the discrimination, violence and maltreatment faced by our widows,” Obiagbaoso-Udegbunam added.

While calling for more support from human rights activists and lawyers, the gender advocate stated that those who maltreat widows should prosecuted, while people, particularly the men should be encouraged to write their wills in order to prevent their wives and daughters from being denied their inheritance right under discriminating laws and customs.

She also stressed on the need to mobilise the, traditional rulers, community leaders and communities, as well as religious leaders, and sensitise them on the implications of widowhood practices which in reality is violence against women and punishable under the law.

During a panel discussion, Health Financing and Advocacy Specialist with Save the Children International, Folake Kuti, said that women who are already going through a lot of trauma and agony resulting from the death of their husbands are still subjected to widowhood practices that have both health and emotional implications.

“These practices are not carried out on widowers when they loss their husbands. Unfortunately, the laws protecting widows in Nigeria are not well publicised, therefore the knowledge of the law is in the decline most especially in communities.”

She added that laws prohibiting widowhood practices have been passed both at the federal and state levels, stressing that the laws were enacted to protect widows.

According to her, “The Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act prohibits widowhood practices and makes it an offence to subject any woman to such practices. Unfortunately, many CSOs, lawyers and the general public are not aware of the VAPP Act.”

Speaking on the legal perspective to widows’ right in Nigeria, the Chairperson, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Enugu branch, Sylvia Abanah said the existing laws are adequate to address widowhood practices, as Nigeria needs to domesticate international human right laws that prohibit violence against women.