IWD: Let’s wipe widows’ tears away

International Widows Day is observed on 23 June of every year. It was established by the Loomba Foundation and ratified by the United Nations General Assembly to raise public awareness about cumbersome challenges of widowhood and spur the human species to lend those heartbroken widows a helping hand around the world so as to build a prosperous life and better tomorrow for their offspring. The theme of this year (2021) is “Invisible women, Invisible problems”.  

        A widow is defined as a woman who is either divorced by her partner or whose spouse died. Losing husband is indeed a sad situation which often becomes a new set of problems and hardships for virtually all widowed women as it drastically turns their lives into miserable one because they were left without shoulders to carry on. Some of them are being coerced into beggary or prostitution to cater for their children or pay their school fees. They often cry and cry because of their untold plight and how people regard them as a burden on their shoulders. We should look upon these vulnerable individuals as our biological sisters or mothers wherever they are and lend them a helping hand to ensure that they go to bed without an empty stomach.    

      According to the official website of the United Nations Organization (UNO) and the World Widow Report of the Loomba Foundation of 2015, there are about 258 million widows with 585 million offspring throughout the world. These widows are experiencing untold suffering, discrimination, injustice, starvation and abject poverty since they have no any sources of income to cater for themselves and their children.

However, the coronavirus outbreak has indeed thrown millions of women into the most difficult conundrum of grief-stricken widowhood worldwide as the mortality rate from the virus tends to be higher for men. As of June 21, 2021, there were almost 3.9 million people consumed by this lethal disease and most of them are men. Even the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in his message for 2020 International Widows’ Day said, “More men than women are dying from COVID-19”.  These woebegone widows shouldn’t be left in the lurch as almost all of them and their children sleep on an empty stomach. Hence, the three tiers of government, UNICEF, UNESCO, the Loomba Foundation and other individuals must work towards setting up a COVID-19 widows support groups to provide financial support and empower these despondent widows in order to be self-reliant and take care of their children around the world.

  Nigerian widows joined their counterparts around the world in marking this crucial day in ignominy, quandary and incessant shedding of tears on account of extreme pain, grief, abject poverty, injustice, discrimination and gender disparity. It is painful that many women have been compelled into loneliness of widowhood by brutal invasions of Boko Haram marauders, bandits, conflicts and frequent road accidents across the country. The indescribable hardship of Nigerian military widows is also annoying and should be addressed forthwith. In January 2020, the Borno state governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, said that Boko Haram had caused the emergence of 59,311 widows that lost their husbands to the insurgency in different parts of the state.  

I appeal to governors of Borno and Yobe states, senators of the two states, their reps, members of Houses of Assembly, NGOs and other individuals to work hand-in-hand and keep their minds towards equipping these hopeless widows that are struggling for a hand-to-mouth existence with empowerment tools, skill acquisition centers, vocational training centers and funds to set up small scale businesses with a view to being self-independent and building a firm foundation for their children. So, the chairperson of the Northern Governors Wives Forum (NGWF) and the First Lady of Niger state, Dr. Amina Abubakar Bello, should exert herself to mobilise others first ladies to persuade their handsome dear husbands to lend these deprived widows a helping hand and empowering them to be independent across the nook and cranny of the Northern.  

       I strongly call on fathers across Igboland to help write their wills before they die in order to rescue their beloved daughters and wives from sufferings after their deaths. Writing of their wills doesn’t mean they are inviting their demise. It is agonising to see their beloved daughters and wives dropped out of schools or universities as a result of disinheriting them or seizing their estates by their pitiless relatives and sons. It brings tears to every person’s eyes seeing their much-loved daughters and wives are involving in prostitution or crying over hunger.       

       The newly elected chairperson of the Southern Governors Wives Forum (SGWF) and First Lady of Osun state, Mrs. Kafayat Oyetola, should mobilise and spare no effort to liberate widows from customs that violate their constitutional rights. In fact, educating a woman is beneficial to society. So, it is not too late for widows to be sponsored on formal education.  

         Conclusively, I strongly call on the federal and state governments, legislative bodies, the Loomba Foundation, NGOs, UNICEF, UNESCO and other individuals to pay due attention to poverty-stricken widows and arrange some funds to make them self-reliant financially in their societies. The Minister of Humanitarian affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, should also strive to help wipe their tears away by empowering them to return to their normal life and be financially independent.

Mustapha Baba Azare,

Alkali Musa Street, Azare,

Bauchi State,