By CrossRiverWatch admin
Wife of the governor of Cross River State, Dr. Linda Ayade has charged Cross Riverians and traditional rulers in particular to refrain from encouraging beliefs and practices that infringe on the rights of widows and vulnerable women.
The Cross River First Lady’s charge was contained in her address to mark the 2016 International Widows Day celebrated in her office in Calabar.
Below is the full text of the address which was delivered by the Special Adviser, Office of the First Lady, Mrs. Eneji:
I welcome you to this Stakeholder Engagement Forum to mark the 2016 International Widows Day. It is a day that comes with mixed emotions as it reminds us of the plight of widows and at the same time presents us the opportunity of advocating for their rights and helping them to improve the quality of their lives.
The International Widows Day Celebration, started in 2005 by the Loomba Foundation is intended to call attention to the sufferings and degradation experienced by widows and their children.
As you may already know, June 23rd has been selected for this celebration because it was the day Pushpa Wati Loomba, the mother of the man who established the Foundation, became a widow resulting in the social intolerance and financial adversity she and her young son experienced.
Widowhood is a general societal problem that could affect just about any married woman irrespective of age, social status and education.
It must be a terribly sad experience to live so securely, enjoying the love and protection of a powerful man and then suddenly, at his death, be swept away by the tide of cultural practices that exclude the widow, and consequently her children, from inheriting from her deceased husband.
This is why I will continue to call on Cross Riverians to shun those beliefs and cultural practices that bring pain to widows.
Our men must support their wives to achieve their academic and business dreams because, apart from securing independence and a source of livelihood for the uncertain future, this will help the women contribute to the welfare and growth of the home, and it will also increase their sense of self-worth.
Our husbands should endeavor to write their wills and clearly indicate their wives as next-of-kin and beneficiaries of their estates in order to protect the people they have loved during their lifetime from becoming stranded in the event of their deaths.
The contributions of our traditional rulers, being the custodians of our cultural heritage, are of extreme importance.
Chiefs should never encourage cultural practices that reflect insensitivity to the plight of the widow and her children. Rather, they must endeavor to review those retrogressive cultural practices and customary laws that are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
They must strive to create more humane, tolerable and accommodating conditions for the widow and her children.
Sadly, we still hear of communities that totally ignore the grieving woman’s pain and loss. Instead, she is accused of being responsible for the death of her own husband, and is therefore further subjected to gross emotional torture.
In some of these communities, such women are put through unimaginable conditions like; being compelled to drink concoctions or they are even confined to a room with the dead body to prove their innocence.
Such injustice meted out to widows can only lead to health challenges, depression, loss of self-worth, poorer living conditions and a reduction in life span. Of course, these after-effects are interpreted as a punishment from the gods!
Road signs and traffic wardens provide order on highways; just imagine the chaos we would experience daily without law and law enforcement! There will be a total breakdown of society and human relations.
This is why I have considered it important to remind us today that the rights of the widow are provided for in law. She is not begging for society’s assistance or recognition. We should not reduce her to an object of constant pity. She is protected by the law.
Before the end of the day we will listen to a presentation by a member of the International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA) that will throw light on the rights of the widow and what she can do when those rights are trampled upon.
As I have indicated earlier, one of the things that can affect a woman negatively in the event of the death of her husband is over-dependence on him. Like always, I am encouraging our women to seek education and skills that will enable them have their own sources of livelihoods
About 9% – 16% of widows are women of child-bearing age. Though the exact number of widows in Cross River State cannot be ascertained at this time, we have a record of over 20,000 of them formed into cooperative societies already!
Today my organization, Mediatrix Development Foundation, will begin the process of sponsoring selected widows in the South-South Entrepreneurship Development Centre (SS EDC) for training in entrepreneurial skills and thereafter assist in linking them to finance to start up their own businesses.
The purpose is simple: to empower these women so that the quality of their lives and those of their children will be improved. The number of women to benefit will continually be raised as time goes by and our resources increase.
Enjoy the rest of the day. Thank you.
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