Experts recently decried the impunity with which widows are been neglected and treated in the country which they said have assumed a worrisome dimension as government seems not to be worried about the devastating trend.
Many widows in Nigerian are confronted with immeasurable problems; their population is steadily increasing as a result of the recent security challenges coupled with the effects of HIV/AIDS and worsened by inter-tribal crises.
These women have been left to cater for themselves and their families alone with majority being subjected to harmful traditional practices in many parts of the country and this has heightened calls for legislation against it.
It was against this backdrop that Rock of Ages Empowerment Foundation, a Non – Governmental Organisation (NGO), empowered over 500 widows at the just celebrated International Day of Widows (IDW) in Abuja.
The empowerment of these widows according to the foundation was amid to sensitize the government and the Nigerians on the need to ease the plight of the widows in the country.
About N5Million was shared among the women to enable them put up a trade so that the well-being of their family can be guaranteed.
The widows on June 23rd, the International Widows Day gathered from all parts of Abuja and environs and converged at the popular Echi-echi garden located at Gudu district, Apo, to share their experiences as well as to celebrate with the man they described as their husband.
The widows were also exposed to ‘life-impacting’ messages but however went home with cash and material gifts from the foundation.
The founder and chairman of Rock of Ages Empowerment Foundation, Brother Ignatius Newman while lamenting the plight of widowhood, especially in Nigeria, charged them not to be despaired but rather put their trust in God.
He said the foundation has continued to empower and train widows, as well as orphans in all parts of the country but however wondered why Nigerian politicians don’t give attention to the less privileged in the society adding that what the foundation is doing was as a result of passion and vision to serve humanity.
Five hundred women were given N10, 000 each to start petty trading, while thousands of others smiled home with various types of food items, free medical treatment and clothing items.
“The aim of the Foundation is to touch the lives of these women by presenting to them food items, working tools, free medical treatment, and school fees for their children and support in the form of house rent. The Foundation pursues economic empowerment and self-reliance of women especially widows as a means of achieving sustainable development in Nigeria”, he founder said.
While lamenting the dilemmas of widows, Evang. Newman said, “there are 245 Million widows in the world, yet their problem are often ignored, I hope to break the silence of their sufferings in order to support them to play an active role in the building of their families and their communities.
“As the HIV/AIDS epidemic and armed conflict continue to wreak havoc across the world, widows are getting younger and facing tougher challenges.
“Many of these women face harsh discrimination and social exclusion on account of their marital status, compounds the discrimination they already face on account of their gender”, he noted.
He added that several steps have been taken to address the plights of widows but there is still a long way to go as over 115 Million widows still live in extreme poverty.
Newman said the existence of the Foundation is to make women become employed and financially empowered in order to make the economy grow.
“As women are given equality, nations become stronger and justice and equity across the board become attainable. Widows deserved a better deal than they were currently getting, the foundation was devoted to empowerment of the less privileged such as widows, orphans and physically-challenged in the society.
“In the last four years, we have touched the lives of many people through donations, skills training and empowerment programmes. This year’s IWD celebration is born out of our desire to create awareness about the plight of widows and orphans in our society.
“Their distresses has not received sufficient attention it supposed to receive in the country, these women surfer so much abuse, neglected and rejected by families and relations and we cannot but call attention to their plight, we are calling on federal, state and local governments as well as well-meaning Nigerians, international agencies to shift attention to these group.
“Nigerians should not just see widows and neglect them. They should extend their hand of blessings and giving to widows. Help widows around you and wherever you find them no matter how small the assistance is. People see widows as people to neglect; reject and abandon but that should not be the case they should rather be celebrated.”
Brother Newman who said he started caring for widows since 2007 by divine inspiration said the widows have never gathered on monthly basis without them having something to leave it. “God has always assisted us in making provisions for them despite the fact that we don’t have any donor, when people support widows it helps eradicate poverty from their midst and the nation at large”.
It is important to state here that these widows’ story is the same world over which centres on abject poverty, lack of money to pay children fees, victimization and stigmatization by people around them, ejection from their homes, non-payment or delay of payment of their late husband’s death benefits, subjection to harmful widowhood practices among uncountable tales of woe.
Of note was the heavy down pour on that 23rd of June but this did not in any way stop these ‘God’s wives’ from coming from very far and near just to have something to meet their needs. While some came alone, others came in coordinated groups from different parts of Abuja, Niger, Nasarawa, and nearby states.
Some of the widows like Mrs Rhoda David could not contain her joy about the N10, 000 seed money given to her by the foundation saying she will pay her children’s school fees and start a small business. She called on government to render more support so as to argument what the foundation is doing.
Also, Madam Lydia said she sells akara and pap and will use the money augment her business.
Mrs Chineneye Okuwa who came from Gwagwalada Area Council and came on the invitation of her sister who had benefited last year and used her own share of cash to set up a business and can now feed her family comfortably.
She said she had always lived in fear and worry over what she and her children will eat the next day but since coming to the foundation she can take care of her family and her vegetable business has gotten a lift with the money she was empowered with. She encouraged other Nigerians to support the foundation to help more widows.
Ude Nkiruka another widow came from Kubwa said through the empowerment, which she has benefited from regularly, she no longer feels depressed nor go out begging for food and assistance from neighbours or relatives whom she said had insulted her condition on several occasions went to them for assistance.
According to her, “I want to encourage widows to stop seeing themselves as suffering widows because they have a mighty husband who is greater than the one they lost which is God and who is willing to help them. People should stop maltreating widows, or treating them like rags. Widows are not witches or wizards, they should know that everybody on earth can die because when you love and care for a widow, God will favour and reward you”.
Brother Newman to me is the ‘husband of widows after God. I and my children would have been homeless by now but all thanks to God who used Bro the Newman to get accommodation for us and gave me the seed money I used to start up a little business. I can tell you that now; I and my three children are confortable.
“Government must ensure that widows of all ages and their children are treated as equal human beings with equal human rights, including the right to shape their own futures and live lives with confidence and dignity
“My story is the evidence that when women and girls who are widowed have opportunities, they can support themselves and their families. When we have the full protection of the law, we can claim our rights to land and property and all we need is just a little push”, she advised.