By Vivian Onyebukwa
To mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), Karis and Eleos, a non-governmental organisation with focus on empowering women and girls, trained and empowered widows in different skills. The areas included makeup, baking, tailoring, household and catering, among others. No fewer than 400 widows were involved. Eighty of them who have already started their businesses were empowered with business tools such as oven, makeup kits, baking ovens and burners, etc, to help them increase their capacity and income.
Bukola Bamiduro, convener of the event, said that some of the widows have witnessed horrible experiences since their husbands died, adding that the essence of the meeting was for them to become better.
“They have learnt different skills and have started making use of the skills. After today, they are expected to be able to double whatever they have been doing,” Bamiduro, said.
She promised to check on the widows after three months to find out how they are faring in their businesses.
Although International Widows’ Day is marked every 23rd June, Bamiduro explained that the shift in marking the day by the organsation was to be able to gather funds to empower the widows that attended the training. She attributed it to the country’s poor economy, which she noted, has affected every aspect of life.
“The economy is bad and everybody is affected. There is no job. Entrepreneurs after COVID-19 have tripled, yet government is rolling out hard policies, but you have to be resilient. After the death of your husband, you are still expected to take care of your children. The death of your husband is not the end of life or world. You have to be mentally stable to move on,” she told the widows.
According to Bamiduro, “some of the widows who attended the event, have witnessed horrible experiences since their husbands died.
“Statistics shows that there are more than 258 million widows around the world. Death of a husband is a terrible tragedy that affects a woman. They are more devastated when they have to battle with life challenges without much support from the families, government, and the society. “Experience from the past shows that widows are often denied inheritance rights after the death of a partner. They also experience extreme stigma and discrimination after the death of their husbands. For some of them who does not have access to funds, they may not be able to take good care of their health and their children when they are ill, as a result of poverty.
“International Widows Day takes a look at some of these issues affecting widows around the world and what must be done to safeguard and advance their rights. These are areas that needs urgent attention, which was why the organisers of the event, Karis and Eleos, invited different speakers to the event to talk to the widows on different areas of their lives, such as health, finance, legal, and coping with life generally.
One of the speakers, George Module, a Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) retiree, and a widow of 17 years, who lost her husband at the age 44, told of how she raised their five children, all graduates, after the death of her husband.
Narrating her experiences as a widow, she gave some tips on how to cope with widowhood. “After your husband’s death, what next? Are you going to continue begging from friends and family members? You can’t just wait in pity for someone to come. The moment you start that, you become the talk of the town. Deal with your in-laws with the sense and wisdom of God. You must be ready to be working hard. Finally, look unto God, the author and finisher of your life,” she said.
Another speaker, Regina Ogbodo, spoke on mental wellbeing for women. Ogbodo, a broadcast journalist for two decades, and a widow of seven years, is a mother of four and two grand children. Also advising the widows using her personal experiences, she said. “First, accept the situation. That is how to deal with mental health. Spend within your limit. Eat well.”
Also, a legal practitioner and human rights lawyer with 17 years of practice, Oluwayemisi Adesina, spoke on how to fight for human right. She said widows are relegated, subjected to customary laws, and are made to go through cleansing when their husbands dies. She however advised them on how to go through widowhood challenges without even going to court.
“Don’t be blinded so much by your right. Watch the environment you are in. Customary laws are still working against the woman. Before your daughters get married, they should first go to court registry before the customary marriage. Be wise. Tell your husband to do a will while alive,” she counselled.
Dr. Yetunde Ayo Oyalowo, CEO, Market Doctors, while giving a health talk, told the women to be healthy to move forward: “Take care of your children. Mind your blood pressure, and sugar level. Check fibroid by going to the hospital. Dress well.”
She also warned them not to take herbal drugs without prescription.
There was a free medical screening on cervical cancer to ensure that the widows were in good health.
Fumi Raji, who represented Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Cecilia Bolaji Dada, highlighted some of the efforts of the ministry to alleviate poverty among women and youths. She applauded Karis and Eleos for their efforts towards helping the widows.
Lawan Melody entertained guests at the event with spoken work titled, ‘Her’.
On behalf of the widows, Mercy Olujimiwe expressed gratitude to Karis and Eleos for their continued care and assistance to widows.