By Ms Hauwa E. Shekarau, Founder/Executive Director, Women, Law and Development Initiative (WOLDI)
The 23rd day of June every year has been set aside by the United Nations, by virtue of Resolution A/RES/65/189, as “International Widows Day” to draw attention to the voices and experiences of widows and to galvanise the unique support that they need.
There is, currently around the world, an estimated 258 million widows and this number is on the increase in light of the current corona virus pandemic ravaging our planet and occasioning devastating human loss, likely to render a lot of women new widows. The corona pandemic and the attendant lock downs and economic closures that has afflicted the world today has wrought untold hardship on widows; most of whom have no access to pensions, family support, healthcare or even basic necessities to support themselves and their children.
Asides the pandemic, most widows around the world have been subjected to diverse forms of harmful traditional practices, victimisation, discrimination and abuse. These vices are regularly on the increase, especially in the developing societies such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria in particular. The voices, needs and experiences of these widows are often suppressed and absent from government and societal policies that are likely to impact on their survival.
This year, the attention of the International Widows Day is on creating an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights and recognition for widows, by providing Widows with information on access to a fair share of their inheritance, land and productive resources;
pensions and social protection that are not based on marital status alone;Decent work and equal pay; and Education and training opportunities.
There is also the need to empower widows to support themselves and their families by addressing social stigmas that create exclusion, and discriminatory or harmful practices. Government must take steps to ensure that Widows rights and needs are enshrined in International and domestic laws in line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Government Policies and Programs directed at eradicating violence against Widows and their children, poverty alleviation, education, free access to justice and other supports, must be undertaken within the context of action plans to accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Thus, in line with these set goals, we at WOLDI and our partners around the world are proud to join hands with the United Nations by restating our commitment to ensuring that Widows have access to justice and are free from every form of discrimination against them and their children. We recognise the unique importance and value of widows within our society, and are dedicated to ensuring that their rights, needs and voices are heard around the world.
WOLDI therefore calls on the Government at all levels, Public and Private Organisations, media houses and the general public to join in the fight to eliminate all forms of discrimination against widows and their children, alleviate poverty, and also, elevate the standard of living of widows and their families in Nigeria. We welcome every case of discrimination against widows and their children, as our doors are always opened and ready to listen and fight for their rights.
Happy International Widows Day!
With 258m widows worldwide, Nigeria needs to stop social stigmas that create exclusion, and discriminatory or harmful practices on hers