- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Saturday, 23 June 2012 19:07
- Written by Justine John DYIKUK
23 of June every year is International Widows Day. It is a day many governmental and non-governmental organizations, well meaning meaning/spirited individuals exercise their philanthropy to better the lot of widows and possibly their children, for those who have. Widowhood comes with trauma; this shock like the taste of the
pudding, is better expressed by one who feels and knows it – preferably a woman who is widowed, or a child who is orphaned. Both cases reflect the story of anawins in urgent need of the prophet Elijah for the miracle of an overflowing menu (Cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16).
The writer feels obliged to honor all widows, gallant amazons, who have held their heads high against all misgivings. This commentary highlights their plight hoping to find respite – opportunities for these needy sisters of ours.
The Pangs of Widowhood
Widowhood comes with shock, pain, sorrow and often suffering. Stories abound of how widows fared during and after their mourning period. In some cultures here in Nigeria, as soon as a man is pronounced death, the grieving period begins. The woman and children are made to observe the necessary traditions that are customary to her husband’s people. God save her if she is not from the same place with him. These practices vary from place to place but some would have the woman and her children clean-shaved and wear white or black mourning robes. This is where the whole drama starts. The mourning dress could be worn for two to three months – the widow is ostracized and she dares not go even to the place of worship; minimal work may be permitted.
While the poor woman is battling with the confusion and distress, preparations for the burial ceremony starts most of which are very expensive often without recourse to what the family will live on after the burial. If your husband was rich, selfish uncles and aunties used this period to taste the forbidden fruit which was hitherto the wife’s exclusive reserve. Usually, they strategize how these monies are spent; if your husband hadn’t a good house, they’ll build a new one otherwise, the old one is renovated; the funeral is unnecessarily delayed lasting three to four months – cows must be slaughtered and lavish banquets held and wholesome sums are spent without recourse to the future of neither the wife nor the children.
Before the funeral, if the family suspects the wife of having a hand in the death of their brother, the wife is sometimes given the water used in bathing the corpse to drink - reason being to prove her innocence. Others would make her lie on the same bed with the dead body for days. In the minds of the villagers, crying foul here does not help as no ‘Jupiter’ can stop this ritual.
Another troubling experience for the widow is the in-laws. In-law wahala or problems are a constant headache. Some start taunting the helpless woman; ‘eyeing’ her left, right and centre without giving her a breathing space. The males may begin to make advances on her. One may say, “if you don’t marry me, find your way; but remember: you brought nothing to this house, so you are taking nothing.” If she so agrees, fine otherwise, she faces another stress of looking for where to go to. This has led some to prostitution – others would go back to their parents to wait for any Good Samaritan of her husband.
While she is going through this litany of woes, seizure of her husband’s assets, by his people is usually the rule rather than the exception. At times, they may be as cruel as throwing the wife and children out of the house. Stories abound of in-laws who sold the house before their brother was buried. If the man was pensionable, “it would do you good to surrender the documents,” an exerting in-law would say. How you feel, what becomes of your children or future is left to fate. What a cruel world!
Windows of Opportunities/Standing for the Defenseless
With the above submission on the plight of widows, the writer is sure that it is an experience no one would like his mother or sister to go through. On this day of widows, it behooves us as individuals and groups, governments, corporate organizations, church/mosque or shrine, to step in to salvage the excruciating pain most widows go through.
One must salute the various NGOs who have always been there for these vulnerable women. Some groups have opened skill acquisition centers, formal and non-formal education schools to adequately cater for the educational needs of widows who are disadvantaged. More can still be done.
It must be acknowledged that some of these widows are young with bright prospects that shouldn’t be allowed to waste. Government and religious groups can set up associations for widows where they could come together, share their experiences, strengthen one another and posit ways forward for themselves. With the help of the parish priest, we had this society in St. Joseph the worker parish, Yelwa – Bauchi. When some of them stand up to talk, they start shedding tears. It is here you would know that people are really going through a lot of difficulties.
Government especially the judiciary and law enforcement agencies can step in to help those of them who are denied their husbands property and pension. At times, a man will die and his family stays for 5 to 10 years without receiving his entitlements. What happens to his wife and children is no one’s business. When she tries to contact her husband’s former colleagues to help, they shamelessly demand for sex. What an unkind world! Unless we want to breed miscreants and misfits in society, adequate provision should be made to assists their children in terms of education.
God is ultimately the husband of widows and the father of widows. Any assault on a widow or her kids is a direct affront on God (Exodus 22:22-24). I am sure no would want to incur divine wrath on himself/herself. I encourage all widows today to keep struggling. God has not forgotten you. When you cry to him, he will answer. Self-control, contentment, hard work and sincerity of purpose will vindicate you. No one has said you cannot remarry; no one has said, you cannot make it in life. You have a life to live - spice it with determination and the sky will be your limit. Will you use your hand to close the window of opportunities for yourself?
Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic Priest and Public Affairs Commentator writes from Bauchi.