Lagos, June 22, 2019
Veteran musician, Onyeka Onwenu, on Saturday, cautioned widows in the country against prostitution and begging, saying it is the worst thing a woman can do to her children and family.
Onwenu gave the charge in Lagos at an event to mark International Widows Day organised by Rose of Sharon Foundation, an NGO, at Yaba College of Technology.
Celebrated annually on June 23, International Widows Day is a UN ratified day of action to address challenges faced by widows and their dependents in many countries across the globe.
The musical crooner of the song, “One Love, keep us together” said she was able to achieve all that she had today, having been raised by a widow.
She said “you should learn to put your trust in God. You have two hands and two legs, therefore, you should learn to work for yourself.
“No matter what it is you’re doing, be proud of your work. If I was not a musician, I probably will be a market woman selling some perishable items.
“I was raised by a widow and she taught me the importance of hard work and putting my trust in God, which made me into what I am today.”
Onwenu also advised widows to be stern yet gentle in raising their children and told them not to let people disrespect them which was common with single mother parenting.
“Do not let your children or people insult you because you are a widow. You do not deserve it and you can achieve this from the way you carry yourself.
“Treat yourself with respect and dignity and when people see you do this, they will respect you even though you are a widow.”
Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, the Founder of the NGO, said that in Nigeria and many developing countries, the rights of widows were infringed upon because they were made to suffer many unhealthy customary practices.
Alakija noted that “once a woman loses her husband in some parts of the country, she is subjected to emotional, psychological and even physical torture to prove her innocence in the death of her spouse.
“Nigeria’s constitution supported by international law emphasises equal rights for women but these rights are difficult to enforce.
“As a result, widows are constantly faced with poverty, neglect, exploitation and injustice.
“They struggle daily for their daily living, they have fewer rights and even suffer indignity.”
Alakija said that in many parts of Nigeria, widows were denied the right of inheritance as a result of customary practices entrenched over time.
She added that under customary or religious laws, right for inheritance was not granted to wives and female children by the family of the deceased in many communities.
She explained that “perpetrators of such acts were often never called to justice due to traditions which became accepted as the norm.
“However, Rose of Sharon Foundation is determined to change the narrative and not to allow these acts go unnoticed and will continue to fight for the rights of widows in the country.”
However, Mr Monday Ubani, a legal practitioner, said that the provisions of the law protects the rights of widows from cultural practices that are detrimental to them.
Ubani said that practices such as drinking the bath water of deceased husband, sleeping in the same room with the deceased, among many others, should be banished completely.
He added that “some state governments have taken it upon themselves to outlaw these cultural practices that we consider dangerous to women who lost their husbands.
“The International Widows Day is a day to recognise the rights of widows and ensure that they are protected from harmful cultural practices.”
Ubani called for more male participation in subsequent editions of upholding the human rights of widows to enable men to understand the plight of the wife and children they left behind.
According to him, writing out a well organised legal document regarding the disposal of property will go a long way to alleviating the unfortunate effects faced by widows at the demise of their breadwinners.