Widows Advocacy Coalition in Nigeria (WACIN)has called for better welfare and the recognition of the rights, privileges and dignity of widows in Nigeria
WACIN stated this in a communique at the end of the 16 Days Advocacy Against Gender Based Violence held recently in Lagos.
Newsmen reports that WACIN is body of NGOs working collectively on widow’s priorities and issues and collaborate to generate data and identify strategies for building a collective voice and improve social protection for widows
The group Stressed that harmful widowhood practices were essentially gender-based violence and called for concerted action about its prevalence, particularly, as the estimated population of 50 million people involved in Nigeria are two times more than the population of Sierra Leone, more than five times more than the population of the Gambia and 65 times more than the population of Sao Tome and Principe.
It recognizes that entrenched socially construed biases have resulted in women engaging in self-discrimination and inhibiting men from contributing to the resolution of widows issues.
The advocacy group demands funding for a variety of strategies to transform social norms that would put an end to violence against women, acknowledging that one of the greatest investment is to advance new narratives of the widows.
It recognizes that widows and widowers were treated differently in Nigeria, noting that while the widower is comforted and supported to bear the grief of a loved one, the widow is subjected to inhuman and barbaric practices that have harmful effects and contribute to with pain, grief and depression, especially for women who have no education, skill and viable economic opportunities.
WACIN condemns the discriminatory intimidation of widows through a variety of harmful traditional burial rite across Nigeria with the attendant exclusion from inheritance, noting that the impact of widowhood practices in Nigeria was devastating, outdated, illegal and repugnant to natural justice.
It noted that there are collaborating opportunities for government, companies and the CSO to eliminate violence against widows in Nigeria, specifically, working to protect the fundamental human rights of the widows, including the right to inherit property.
The group observed that while widowhood is not determined by social status, society needs to provide widows a deserved attention by building sustainable institutions that address their need for financial security, economic stability, legal protection, sustainable housing and rights protection.
It calls for awareness on the invisibility of widows and the formation of viable and structured institutions for widow’s social protection and service provision to forestall the idiosyncrasies of stigmatization / ostraticisation associated with individual and societal biases against widows
Having x-rayed the socio- cultural factors affecting the dignity and rights of widows in Nigeria, WACIN recommends the following:
“It urges all well-meaning Nigerians to organize and collaborate to support widows and eliminate all harmful widowhood practices in Nigeria by:
– Engaging to abolish harmful widowhood practices
– Supporting widows to remarry if and when they decide to
– Ensuring the government, the private sector and the civil society organizations collaborate to provide psychosocial support and counselling for widows to cope with the trauma of loss
“Government should work with the organized private sector to invest in a Survivors’ Benefit Scheme to cater for widows and their dependents
“It recognizes the importance of communal support for widows to remarry if and when they chose to.
“Widows should fight for the enforcement of the protection of their fundamental human rights, which include the right to property inheritance, particularly, as access to legal aid and the provisions of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law are weak of widow’s protections.
“It calls on the government to invest in shelter for widows to lessen trauma experience because unsafe spaces underscore the deployment of harmful traditional practices and violence against widows.
“It accepts to address the knowledge gap on widows’ needs and priorities by establishing an information desk in select communities to create more awareness, providing linkages to institutions and support for widows at the community level.”
Newsmen reports that in coming up with the above recommendations, WACIN organized a one-day event on Thursday, 7th December, 2023 to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
The event, which was hybrid with a physical location in Lagos was a combination of speeches, panel discussion and questions and answers.
Dr. Otivie Igbuzor, Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) chaired the event.
Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, Women Advocacy, Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) gave the keynote address.
Ada Agina-Ude, Executive Director, Women for Equity and Fairness Organization of Nigeria and a Guest Speaker delivered a presentation on; “How to Build and Sustain Institutions for the Protection of Widows.”
Subsequently, panelists including Foluke Ademokun, a Member of the Board of Trustees, WACIN and Executive Director, Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation, Dr. Ndudi Bowei, Executive Director, Rose of Sharon Foundation and Mrs. Alao, Executive Director, Friends-In Need enriched discussions on the presentations with a variety of perspectives from practice.
Also in attendance were more than 60 participants representing different organizations and the media.
The deliberations intent was a pursuit of opportunities for policy and legal reforms for the socio-economic and health benefits of widows and their households, particularly in relation to the review of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law.
Subsequently, due to observed delays in legal intervention for widows, WARDC agreed to provide required legal services for widows.
Also in attendance was Almanah Hope Foundation.