Tony John, Port Harcourt
Concerned about the devastating challenges of widows in the country,Total Exploration and Production Nigeria (TEPENG) recently stepped in to empower 280 widows in Rivers State with skills and access to financial support. Through the gesture, the organizers believe the lifespan of the women would be elongated.
Deputy General Manager, Community Affairs and Development of TEPENG, Mr. James Urho, said educating and empowering widows was key to enabling them survive, grow and become economically independent to take care of themselves and their children.
He stated this during a workshop designed by TEPENG in Port Harcourt,to equip women with information and skills that would help them improve and alleviate their socio-economic conditions.
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Urho who spoke through the Manager, Community Relations, Mr. Okechukwu Obara, charged the women to remain resolute and assured that the company would continue to provide succour where it can, no matter how little, to assist them create a life for themselves and their children.
“Loss of spouse or partner is often devastating. But, for many women, it is magnified by a long-term struggle for basic needs, human rights and dignity.
“Cultural practices in most countries, such as ours, link woman’s social status to that of her husband’s, such that when her husband dies, a woman is denied an economic place in society.
They are, sometimes, deprived of inheritance and land rights ,evicted from their homes,ostracized and abused and so, find themselves left in poverty.“
The children of the widow also often find themselves affected, withdrawn from school and more vulnerable to abuse, especially in the case of girl-child. As a result of these noted injustices meted out to widows, the United Nations in 2010 launched the International Widows Day, to raise awareness of the violation of human rights that widows suffer in many countries and it is against this background, TEPENG orgainsed the workshop to improve the conditions of widows within its catchment areas of operation,” Urho explained.
He noted that some court rulings in the country have begun to strengthen the rights of women to inherit and own property, which they and their spouses acquired, describing it as a welcome development.
A resource person, Dr. Charles Apoki, who spoke at the workshop, said continuous empowerment of women would reduce the poverty level in the country. He said any country that overlooks women, would suffer under-development.
“When you empower a woman, you empower children. It’s women that feel pain and know how to manage the resources. So, when you empower a woman, you empower the entire household.”
Though not a widow, women leader of Opobo in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of the State, Pepple Stephens, said she benefited a lot from the training.
“There are certain things we do ignorantly without knowing and we feel we are in the right direction in business. But,today, I have learnt that it is better for us to invest our money in things that will be useful in future, so that at the end, we will have something to train our children and something that we will leave behind for them. We will use our money judiciously for the benefit of our families”.
Mrs. Enyalenka Umejuru widow and mother of three from Idu Obosiuku community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, lauded Total for the capacity building and empowerment workshop.
“I never expected this attention they people have given us. With this empowerment, I know life will change. I have passed through very difficult time for the last six years of my husband’s demise.
”Mrs. Catherine Onyedike, from Okwuzi community in ONELGA lost her husband at the time she needed him most.
“The experience has been too horrible. Even the society plays its role to some extent to make life difficult for widows as if they killed their husbands. However, I thank the company for remembering us and feeling our pains.This empowerment will go a long way to improve our situation,” she stated.