Widowhood is the state of losing a spouse to death. It is perceived and suffered by widows and widowers differently. Generally speaking, there are more widows than widowers and curiously enough, more widowers than widows remarry after the death of their spouses. Rather, most of the widows hardly come out of the depression emanating from the loss of their husbands all through their lives.
In Cameroon, and sadly so, about 40% of women above the age of 40 are widows.
They go through unspeakable ordeal imposed on them by tradition and customs. This begins right from the first day with harsh and inhumane widowhood rites. Some of these rites include but are not limited to sitting and sleeping on the bare floor, moving around bare feet until the husband’s corpse is buried and the “widow dance” performed. They go through coercive traditional and mourning rites which are grievously dehumanizing and even harmful to their health. This is perpetrated by narrow-mindedness, patriarchy, superstitious beliefs, ignorance and illiteracy.
Apart from this immediate physical torture which usually causes serious mental and psychological trauma, the widows are most often, deprived of their rights to inheritance. They do not have any right or claim over the late husband’s property as they are rather considered as part of the property to be inherited by the brothers. I know of a widow, a close friend (who for security reasons chose anonymity) whose husband died leaving her with four children, a well-furnished house, a car and land. But unfortunately, she was chased from the house with her children and everything seized from her by the brothers-in-law. Today, she is renting a house in the same town where she (with the late husband) had one and painfully raising her children single handedly. What a nightmare to become a widow!!
Since the outbreak of the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis in 2016, more and more women have been widowed and children orphaned. Thousands of them have become internally displaced (IDPs) without any source of livelihood or survival. The consequences are despicable. Thousands have dropped out of school, teenage pregnancies and early marriages are on the rise, all forms of GBV suffered and basic human rights violated. Homelessness, economic deprivation and exploitation as well as social and political discrimination all constitute part of the awful experiences of widows. All these only lead them to a vicious cycle of poverty from one generation to another. In fact, widowhood is a nightmare.
The plight of widows is so severe not to be recognized and attended to. It is in recognition of the hardship and vulnerability of widows that the international community has set aside June 23rd each year to spotlight widows, strengthen their voices, encourage and empower them. CAWI decries the poor treatment of widows and advocates for women’s upliftment, especially widows. They need economic empowerment and educational opportunities and resources in order to be independent, self-sufficient, productive and veritable agents of development in society. This will definitely go a long way towards the attainment of the SDGs.
CAWI advocates for the respect and promotion of widow’s rights.
CAWI says NO to violence and discrimination against widows.