By Job Osazuwa
Many widows in Nigeria are unarguably passing through hell in order for them to fend for themselves and their children. They are compulsorily faced with combining the duties of their departed husbands to their own routine in nurturing their children.
Shouldering the family’s financial demands, among others, remains a huge burden that the women are left to contend with.
When death snatches their men, wives oftentimes become helpless and vulnerable. They are left to face the psychological, economic, social and cultural burden that such tragedy leaves behind.
While in search of help to put body and soul together, many young widows have been scorned and assaulted by those who ought to have protected them. A number of widows are homeless and hopeless.
Many analysts fault the Nigerian system that makes no provision to lessen the plight of widowhood. Reports have indicated that the society further complicates the woes of a Nigerian widow. As an unkind fate has turned them into singles again, these unlucky women often struggle between debt, shame and survival.
The pain of losing a loved one to death is beyond words. Listening to stories of what some widows pass through to have a meal on their tables could melt any stony heart. Their experiences are heartrending and empathic.
But a foundation is doing quite a bit to bring help to some of these largely abandoned women. The founder of Adorable Foundation International (AFI), Princess Ada Okeke-Amam told Daily Sun that in the last six years, the foundation has been doing all it could to improve the lifestyle of widows and their children.
She expressed the belief that it’s impossible to separate what the women are passing through from the high and increasing unemployment rate as one of the major problems facing Nigeria. She expressed her worry that the situation has further fuelled many social vices in Nigeria.
As the emergence of coronavirus pandemic bites harder on Nigeria, she frowned on the general systemic economic exclusion of disadvantaged Nigerians, particularly the widows.
To address this, she urged governments at all levels to come up with developmental schemes that could gainfully engage many women who are able and willing to work.
“When you look at what is happening in Nigeria, you will pity most women. Women are vulnerable to many dangers in the society. Many people out there with evil minds are waiting for any slight opportunity to descend on them and compound their woes. This is why we will continue to empower and advocate for women at the bottom of the ladder,” she said.
She advised widows that even at moments when they are at the brink of frustration, they should hold firmly to the string of hope as a life-support.
She said that the foundation has been providing different forms of support for women and children over the years. And she pledged to do more for the less-privileged when she gets support from spirited Nigerians, governments and corporate organisations.
Okeke-Amam stated that one of the foundation’s activities for 2020 was exclusively for the widows. According to her, close to 400 of the beneficiaries on that day went home with different household items and foodstuff.
“This is a trying period for working class couples, let alone single mothers who are widows. We were able to give out raw food items all packed in bags. The joy from the women was indescribable. God has helped so many of us that we are expected to spare a little from it to brighten the lives of less-fortunate people.
“Hunger does not recognise religion or tribe. Christians and Muslims from any part of Nigeria have been benefiting from our programmes. We thank all those who partnered with us to make the programme successful,” she said.
One of the beneficiaries at the AFI’s December 11, 2020 outreach for the widows, Mrs. Catherine Udoka, expressed gratitude to God for making her survive the most turbulent time after losing her husband 15 years ago.
“It was as if the world was about to collapse on my head. At a point, I wanted to commit suicide but with the words of encouragement from my relatives, members and friends, I managed to move on.
“When the reality dawned on me, I rallied round to raise some money to rent a shop to start a small-scale business. I must confess that it has not also been easy depending solely on the little profit I make to run everything that my three children need, including paying our house rent.
“When the incident just happened, my husband’s relatives promised heaven and earth for my children and l. But 15 years after, I am still waiting for them to fulfil those promises. But the disappointment taught me a lesson not to put my hope on any man except God.
“I thank AFI for these gifts that l collected today. They would add value to my family. I didn’t know anybody from the foundation. It was my neighbour who informed me that some people were coming to share gifts for widows and that was how l got here,” she said.
Another widow, who gave her name only as Mrs. Ajagun, also shared her experience. She said that before her husband died she was not allowed to work or run any business.
Her words: “My husband was the only one providing everything for the family. He said that there was no need for me to work. When I objected, he asked me to tell him how much l would love to be collecting as housewife. All he wanted was for me to take care of our two children.
“But everything ended so suddenly. I had to readjust my spending. I could only manage to pay our house rent for one year. I changed my children’s school because I couldn’t continue paying the fees. I advise women not to solely depend on their husbands because if the unthinkable happens, it could be too much to bear.”
Many concerned Nigerians have raised the alarm that Nigerian society was not kind to widows due to various cultural practices as well as government failure to make welfare packages available for the less-fortunate people.
“Apart from helping the widows, Adorable foundation has also been creating awareness in every part of Lagos and Enugu on the dangers of drug abuse. We are striving towards a situation whereby drug abuse is prevented. It is easier to achieve success with prevention than managing and rehabilitating a drug addict.
“We try to contribute the little we can do to put smiles on the faces of these people. There is no greater reward for me than to lift their burden. Their success is our joy. We need assistance to widen our scope so that we can reach more women and other Nigerians who are down there with no one to come to their rescue.
“Apart from giving them household items and foodstuff, we intend to teach them skills, we also mentor and counsel them on how to be self-independent. That is why we are appealing to Lagos State Government to give us a land that we can develop so that we do not continue running some avoidable expenses,” Okeke-Amam noted.
The legal consultant of AFI, Agubuzor Nkechi, said that the foundation has done well in the last few years. She added that Okeke-Amam deserves accolades for positively touching lives with her personal resources.
She described the founder as a workaholic who personally oversees every project embarked upon by the foundation.
“I don’t need to re-emphasis that the founder, an enigma of human capacity builder, an icon of humanitarian service has over the years assiduously worked via AFI to put smiles on the faces of the hopeless, rejected and dejected persons to the glory of God.
“I must confess that the NGO has given me a good platform to offer pro bono services in honour of humanity,” Nkechi said.
The chairman of the 2020 Widows Day, that was organised by Adorable foundation, Pastor Ifunanya Innocent, said that all the participants would not forget the day in a hurry. He said that the number of widows attending the annual programme kept increasing every passing year.
“Everybody that came was fed. Lots of gifts like wrappers, bags, slippers, table gas cookers, blenders, standing fans, coolers etc were given to the women.
“We are praying for God to continue to bless the donors so that more people will benefit in the subsequent years,” Innocent said.
One of the medical personnel, who attended to the women at the event, Rachael Ifeoma said that among the about 200 widows that were examined, it was discovered that many of them had high blood sugar level, high blood pressure and hypertension. She said that most of the patients were unaware of their conditions till the time the tests were conducted.
She stated that the patients with severe illnesses were referred to go for treatment at the hospital. She added that the participants were also educated on how to live healthy lifestyles.