The Pain Associated With Widowhood
The death of a husband is a tragedy that befalls a woman as it involves a physical break in their relationship, and it is seen as the most stressful and devastating thing in life.
In every society, there are women of all ages whose husbands have gone to the great beyond, most especially the vulnerable ones. The underprivileged widows and their vulnerable children constitute a significant component of every country’s population.
According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten lives in extreme poverty. Apart from that, 2.7 billion women are denied access to the same choice of jobs as men due to certain unconfronted restrictions, and lots face gender-based violence even today.
Available statistics show that Nigeria has over eight million disadvantaged widows with over 21 million children. These statistics appear to be on the increase due to the prevalence of crisis, terminal ailments, crimes, religion, and politics.
Therefore, the period after the death of one’s husband is supposed to be a time when everything should be done to assist widows to withstand the emotional and psychological trauma, pain and frustration associated with the loss and not to add to their problems. But unfortunately, the reverse is the case by the African tradition, especially in Nigeria. People chose to maltreat widows instead of helping to ease their problems so that they live a better life.
On the African continent, particularly Nigeria, widows face seemingly insurmountable challenges. Widows rather than being sympathized with and assisted are subjected to near in-human treatment in certain traditional ritual rites and practices such as solitary confinement, defacement, dis-inheritance and a relatively long mourning period. Many are stigmatised, blamed for their husband’s death and displaced from their marital home. The most obvious effects are deepening poverty, acute stress and depression, loss of identity and self-esteem.
The widowhood condition exposes women to psychological and physical abuse as well as a whole range of health-related problems including HIV/AIDs. They face varying degrees of difficulties and untold hardships even though they tend to suffer in silence, in most cases.
For many Nigerian widows, they live not only with psychological challenges, financial constraints, and the burden of raising their children alone but also with the cultural demands of widowhood.
In most parts of the world, widows are deprived of benefiting from the inheritance of their late husbands, especially with the absence of a will. There have been sufficient instances of deprivation attempts and fights, even when the husbands left a will.
Other sundry challenges widows face in our society range from traditional, economic, emotional, and mental to spiritual problems. They also have difficulties engaging in social interaction, and poor housing, to mention a few. Others include violation of widows’ rights: dethronement, defacement, forced levirate marriage; disinheritance and denial of the right of dignity and equality.
These travails, in most cases, make it practically impossible for the widows and their children to have a good life.
These challenges made the United Nations formally adopt June 23 as International Widows Day (IWD). The IWD is recognized all over the world to address the poverty and injustice faced by millions of widows and their dependents in many countries and to raise awareness of the issue of widowhood.
Having almost nothing left to themselves, many widows find solace in petty trading due to inability to obtain sufficient capital to venture into reasonably lucrative businesses that would adequately take care
of them and their children, who usually suffer malnutrition, are prone to diseases, and in most cases, are unable to go to school.
It is therefore incumbent on governments at all levels, non-governmental organizations, institutions, and individuals to stand up to tame these challenges and make life worth living for widows in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.