UN, stakeholders advocate policies on widows’ inclusiveness
United Nations (UN) and other stakeholders have called for programmes and policies to end violence against widows, and their children, poverty alleviation, education and other support for them.
Representing UN Secretary, Mr. Ronald Kayanja, who is the Director, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) joined in the call at the widow’s event with the theme-‘Widows: Unseen, unsupported and unmeasured; Voices and experiences of Nigerian Widows’ held in Lagos.
Some of the stakeholders were representatives from the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Speaking Fingers Network, Widows Advocacy Coalition in Nigeria (WACIN), Head High Organisation, Women Laws and Development Centre Lagos, among others.
The UN drew attention to the voices and experiences of widows and galvanised the unique support that they needed.
“For many women around the world, the devastating loss of a partner is magnified by a long-term fight for their basic rights and dignity. Even though more than 258 million widows around the world, have historically been left unseen, unsupported, and unmeasured in our societies.
“Tens of thousands of women have been widowed by the virus (COVID-19 Pandemic) and may be grieving, while being cut off from their usual socio-economic and family supports.
“As Nations continue to fight the virus on the front lines or begin recovery efforts, widows must not be left out of economic stimulus and social assistance programmes.
“Women cannot inherit equally as men in 36 countries, cannot be heads of households or families in 31 countries and cannot have a job or pursue a profession in 17 states. Such discriminatory laws, which rob widows of property, shelter, income, social benefits and opportunity must be struck down to advance women’s rights worldwide,” Kayanja said.
Mrs. Foluke Ademokun, Executive Co-ordinator, Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation, stated that empowering widows to support themselves and their families also means addressing social stigma as that creates exclusion and discriminatory or harmful practices.
According to her, the foundation’s investment in education for children is informed by how low level of education entrench widow-headed households in poverty and by extension poor nutrition, poor health and poor housing. These, she said, combined to increase the vulnerability of widow-headed households.
“Innovative social protection strategies that deploy investment into technology, information management, education and entrepreneurial skills are critical to ejecting widow-headed households from poverty.”
“It is important that post-COVID-19 recovery efforts are extended to widows, particularly, because of the emerging young demographics,” she said.
Ademokun adds: “In the face of ravaging pandemic, this is the time for the state to develop functional social protections strategies that are diverse, inclusive, transparent and adaptive in the delivery of women empowerment programmes.
While the state tries to reframe the concept of who sit around the decision tables on widows priorities and needs, women themselves must present for work as they shun the toga of welfares.”
Mrs. Hope Nwakwesi Ifeyinwa, Co-convener, Widows Advocacy Coalition in Nigeria (WACIN) said there are several Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) doing related works , such NGOS should have data base of widows and work collectively to address the widows plights. She added WACIN is ready to spearhead the course of all the widows.
Mr. Abayomi Bamidele Adisa, Senior Journalist BBC observed that most widows plights are not well reported, since a lot of widows are sad about the new status and do not want publicity. He disclosed that the media is willing to project the challenges and achievement of widows.
Barrister Mandy Asogba, President African Women Lawyers Association advised widows who are facing legal issues, domestic violence, should speak up, so they can be help with relevant information, capacities offered by the group. She also appreciated those agencies like Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, and the Lagos state Domestic Gender Based Violence team who handle victims in the society.
According to her, widows’ children should be protected from toxic families and environment, they need to be protected, nurtured and groom in safe environment or home.