By Cosmas Omegoh, Lagos
The partnership between OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation and the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) on the protection of the rights of widows in Nigeria is helping widows one year after its inauguration.
AWLA coordinator for Rivers State Hildagard Chineze Desmond-Ihekaire said through the fully-funded Widows Project by the OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation, which AWLA implements as a partner, some widows in the state had received various levels of support.
Desmond-Ihekaire, who spoke to commemorate the International Widows Day 2021, emphasised that free services ranging from counselling to legal representation in court were integral parts of the support systems available to empower widows to deal with the myriad of problems they face following the demise of their spouses.
She lamented that irrespective of the existence of laws prohibiting the dehumanisation of widows in Nigeria, the political will of state actors and policymakers remains to be seen in addressing the plight of widows. According to her some of the perpetrators of the dehumanising treatments against widows are supposedly knowledgeable, exposed, and respected persons.
‘We received a complaint involving a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who following the death of his brother, seized his property without recourse to the deceased’s widow or children. These are the issues,’ she said.
In a related development, AWLA South-South Coordinator Cordelia Eke, while speaking on the gains of the partnership between AWLA and the OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation said the funding of the AWLA Handbook of Widows Rights by the Foundation had made it possible to have reference material on the issue, which has now made public education and engagement easier. She also said the provision of a toll-free number 08000023111 as a helpline for widows had made it possible for embattled widows to reach out and seek help at no cost.
Dr Mrs Seinye OB Lulu-Briggs, the Chairman Board of Trustees of the OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation said her harrowing experience as a widow despite her personal visibility and appreciable support structure, exposed her to the travails of other widows who may not be as fortunate. She said that accounted for the foundation’s staunch interest in the plight of widows.
‘Sadly, this year’s theme for International Widows’ Day, “Invisible Women, Invisible Problems”, conveys, the deplorable plight widows face when their husbands die, remains obscure in development circles,’ she said.
The partnership, among others, continues to offer free legal services, material support and scholarships to widows in Rivers State, including widows of fallen heroes of the Nigerian Army.
Activities marking the 2021 International Widows Day by AWLA and the OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation included sensitisation outreaches that took advocacy to churches, communities and the media in an effort to create awareness about the plights of widows in order to elicit the cooperation of the populace in ending them.