By Deborah Phillips
SO many times I ask myself why a woman would derive pleasure in humiliating her fellow woman but I can’t seem to find an answer to this. Not too long ago, the famous actor-cum-politician, Desmond Elliot and his counterpart, Mercy Aigbe, led a campaign against the maltreatment of widows in Nigeria.
Speaking on that day, Elliot said: “We live in a society where women are blamed each time a man dies. But no one ever thinks of the pain they have to bear in bringing up the children left behind.”
In Nigeria, especially in the eastern part of the country where these barbaric traditions are being practiced, you hear that it is their tradition and it must be respected. I am not disputing the fact that traditions should be respected but who are those carrying out those traditions? Are they the Christians or Muslims that have renounced those traditions and claiming to embrace a religion that teaches peace or the same traditionalists?
If a man dies, a woman is subjected to sleep in the same room with the dead body and even forced to drink the water used in bathing the corpse. Yet, if a woman dies the man is never subjected to any tradition. Not even if there was clear evidence pointing at the husband as the killer.
Paraphrasing the words of a prolific writer Aondover Eric Msughter in his book titled, Tears of Destiny, the author articulated that injustice inflicted against women by women is the bigoted treatment of a woman by a fellow woman, which is enveloped to their humiliation.
Women, when are we going to wake up from our slumber? When are we going to stop humiliating ourselves? When a man dies it is either the mother or the sisters that point fingers at the wife and they are even the prime movers to enforce the traditions. Yet, we say we want such traditions to be abolished? Who will agitate for the traditions to be abolished? Is it we the women or the men who only support our plea for a woman to be humiliated?
When our fellow woman’s husband dies, a fellow woman is always the first to call for the traditions to take its course but if it happens to her she blames the society for the inhuman treatment. The Golden Rule says, do unto others what you want them do unto you also don’t do unto others what you will not want them do unto you.
Nigerian women especially those from the eastern part of this country where these traditions are practiced, must come together and speak with one voice against the maltreatment of widows in Nigeria. This we must do by beginning with ourselves to effect the change and this is through courage. As Elizabeth Candy Stanton said, “the best protection a woman can have is courage.”
Let’s always remember that a woman is a full circle and within her lies the power to create, nurture and transform. We will create our own world where we would have equal rights with the men, nurture the rights and have our world transformed into a better place. According to Arlene Rankin, “The way in which we think of ourselves has to do with how our world sees us and how we see ourselves is successfully acknowledged by the world.”
► Deborah Phillips wrote in from the Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano.