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Widowhood: Human Rights Group Calls for Reforms, Abolition of ‘Degrading Practices’ in Southeast Nigeria

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•Says 8 out of 10 Nigerian men don’t write Will @ age 45

•Says 7 out of 10 men don’t write Will till death

•Blames Umuada

Jude Johnson

The South East geopolitical zone allegedly has the highest form of harmful widowhood practices in Nigeria, including shaving of the hair on a woman’s private parts, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Initiative for Women and Girls Right Advancement (IWOGRA), has claimed.

The organisation, which called for reforms or complete abolition of such practices that degrades women, said eight out of ten Nigerian men do not have a Will at the age of 45, while seven out of ten men die without a Will.

“Widows constitute a significant proportion of women in Nigeria. The 2015 World Widows Report estimated that there are about 258 million widows in the world, while about 2.2 million of them are Nigerians. Eight out of ten Nigerian men do not have a Will at the age of 45, while seven out of ten men will not still write a Will until they pass on”, IWOGRA emphasised.

Other harmful traditional practices, IWOGRA said, included keeping the widows in isolation and having them inherited and slept with by any of her husbands brothers and denying them of inheritance rights to everything belonging to the man, especially when they don’t t have a male child.

The Executive Director of IWOGRA, Nkechi Obiagbaoso-Udegbunam, stated these in an interview after submitting the report of a webinar it organised in commemoration of this year’s international widows day.

She said that in the South East, women were forced to drink the water used in cleaning the decomposed corpse of their husband to ascertain their innocence in his death while most times, the widows were compelled to marry the brother of her husband.

According to her, most times, if the widows refuse to marry their brothers-in-law, they would be forced to leave the family.

Obiagbaoso-Udegbunam said that Nigeria has the highest number of widows in Africa because “their husbands die early due to some factors including wars, ailments, insecurity and violence associated with it.”

She said, “The South East has the highest form of barbaric harmful widowhood practices in Nigeria because the women themselves have been made to believe that these are the normal ways of life which they must comply with. But the irony of this is that the women are the ones perpetrating these widowhood practices against their fellow women.

“It is not the men who come after the widows, it is their fellow women called Umuada. They shave her, put her in isolation, maltreat her and blame her for the death of her husband. These women have been made by the men to believe that it is their role which they must have to do. So, we still have to work on the women themselves to make them realise that they should not be allowed to use their fellow women and treat them badly.

“In fact, if all the Umuada said the are not going to do it, the men will not do it. So, we need to talk to the women, the Umuada and women leaders to say no to all these acts against their fellow women.

“The practices would include shaving of a woman’s hair (even the hair on her private parts); forcing her to drink the water used in cleaning the decomposed corpse of her husband to ascertain her innocence that she was not responsible for her death; keeping her in isolation and having her inherited and slept with by any of her husband’s brothers.

“Most times, they compel the widow to marry the brother of her husband, especially in the South East. If she refuses to marry them, she will be forced to leave the family. Other practices include denial of inheritance rights to everything belonging to the man, especially when she doesn’t have a male child.”


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