Widows haff suffered!
From fending off lecherous advances to fighting for a share of property they assisted their late spouses in acquiring, their challenges are legion.
Then, add to that the horrendous traditional practices to which they are subjected to as well as the accompanying dire implications for their good health and well being.
Na wetin widows do us sef?
International Widows’ Day is marked every 23rd of June to raise awareness on the issues of widowhood. It is estimated that there are 245 million widows worldwide, 115 million of whom live in poverty and suffer from social stigmatization and economic deprivation purely because they have lost their husbands. The UN General Assembly declared 23 June 2011 as the first-ever International Widows’ Day to give special recognition to the situation of widows of all ages and across regions and cultures. In spite of this, millions of the world’s widows still endure extreme poverty, violence, ill health and discrimination. The theme for year 2017 was “Never Alone”.
There are several angles to the plight of widows and as stated earlier their challenges are multifaceted. We will, however, confine ourselves to the detrimental practices that have health implications. In street parlance, let’s leave the other matters for Mathias.
The World Health Organization defines health as a “State of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Obviously most widows would not be said to be enjoying good health on account of the physical and psychological trauma to which they are subjected in conforming to traditional widowhood practices.
These practices differ among ethnic groups but several are common across tribes and ethnic groups. Some of the harmful practices include confinement and ritual cleansing. Once a man dies, the wife automatically becomes confined indoor to mourn the departed husband. The duration of this rite vary from one culture to the other. During this period, the widow’s head is shaved clean and she is made to sleep on the bare floor. This obviously would put the woman at risk of intense medical challenges that would include infections, mental stress and psychological trauma.
Some widows are also not allowed to bathe during the mourning period and they are made to wear black cloth with dire consequences for their mental health and personal hygiene.
In some other places, as proof that the widow has no hand in the death of the husband, she is made to swear and drink of the water used in bathing the corpse of her husband. This obviously is a Catch-22 situation.
The widow is at risk from bacteria from the putrefying or embalmed corpse or even from the disease process that caused the spouse’s death. Often times when these practices result in illness or death, it’s commonly believed that the dead is exacting revenge by causing harm to the person responsible for its death. If that be so, then the kasala obviously would continue in the hereafter!
Widows have also been known to be forcefully affianced to the younger brother or a male relative of the deceased husband. Cause of death of the husband is often not considered nor the health status of the widow nor that of the inheritor factored in this union.
What if the dead died of a transmissible disease which has been passed on to the poor widow?
Then wahala and kasala haff combined …..because Oga inheritor will collect and generously pass it around to his other wife or wives. HIV and the likes on my mind.
Widows need support and empathy to bear their loss but ever so often they don’t get it. The logical question becomes…….wetin widows do us sef for Africa? .