Mary Ekah

The 2016 International Widows’ Day marked recently all over the world will remain indelible in the minds a few lucky widows who made it to the special gathering hosted by the Felix King Charity Foundation in Logos. The event was basically for the Foundation to unveil a new package that will empower and cater to the needs and welfare of violated widows across Nigeria.

But for the founder and president, Felix King Eiremiokhae, the event will go down in history as one of the most special days of his life yet filled with sadness.

Speaking during the event, Eiremiokhae who had set out on a journey to bring smiles to the faces of suffering widows with support of his family, especially his wife Aderonke, said, widowhood is an invisible but huge problem across Nigeria and the world today.

Buttressing on the traumatic life of a widow, he said, “I know what hectic and demanding lives you lead.”

The conference which had the theme, “The right of a widow”, Eiremiokhae said would help explain why fighting for the rights of widows is a major priority.

He explained that the Felix King Charity Foundation has combined her concrete help to thousands of widows and their children through its intervention programmes which comes in four different schemes viz; health services, housing, food support, and economic empowerment (widows start-up a business WISBIS) with pushing for the society to respect the rights of widows and this he expressed the hope to push higher to national and international agendas.

Speaking further he said, “I feel seriously pained that we have to gather here today to discuss this ignoble and obnoxious prejudice against widows in our society today. It hurts to know that we have such a sour history of treating widows so bad to the point where the United Nations had to set aside a special day to remind us of the inhumane practices we have sustained over generations against our mothers, sisters, wives, cousins and aunts.”

Being the first International Widows’ Day Conference being organised by the Foundation, Eiremiokhae said it was a vital first step in promoting the protection and respect for their rights, across all regions and cultures in Nigeria.

“As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has noted, this day is an occasion to call attention to the challenges women in all countries face at the death of their husbands — whether elderly and alone, or young with young children to raise as a single parent and sole provider. Worldwide, it is estimated that 245 million widows live in extreme poverty, along with their children. In the context of armed conflicts around the world, as well as the HIV and AIDS epidemic, these numbers are increasing,” he noted.

He noted further that in Nigeria, it is estimated that eight million widows are disadvantaged with their children, most of which are attributed to the ignoble and obnoxious traditional practices and prejudices.

He said it hurts to know that the society exposes women to economic, and social deprivations and untold stigmatisation for losing their husbands to the cold hands of death. “It is difficult to understand why the society exploits the pains and vulnerability of widows and their children by exposing them further to poverty, diseases, and other forms of social and economic deprivations in a manner that suggests we are holding them responsible for the death of their husbands,” he said, noting that in most cases, society strips them of almost all rights.

“We deny them the right to own properties, even the right to liberty. We make them dependent but we won’t even allow them depend on us. We force them to live on charity but we will not have them on our own breadlines. We take-over their homes and will not even make them tenants in the houses they once owned; and we call it a tradition?”

Speaking further, Eiremiokhae said the pain that widowhood brings upon women and children can only in his view be equated with the pain of childbirth or sickle cell anemia – understood only by those who go through it.

He said therefore that it was high time; the society spoke out with one voice and work hard to ensure that practices that humiliate women and expose them to such heinous punishments are eradicated.

The situation of widows, he stressed, highlights the need to empower women economically and strengthen their land, property and inheritance rights.

For this purpose, the Felix King Charity Foundation pledged commitment to spear head the campaign of widows rights in collaboration with other growing voices against all evil perpetuated against widows as well as provide helping hands to those of them in need.

Eiremiokhae who said the Foundation would be working with other well-meaning individuals and organisations in a bid to practically tackle the plight and pains of widows and their children, added, “The big idea is to focus on the positive power of giving and the common thread of kindness that binds us. It is all about promoting positive life values irrespective of boundary.”

The foundation, he said, believes that if the entire society works together not just to improve the lots of those that are widowed but also strive to totally eradicate the obnoxious widowhood practices, Nigeria and indeed Africa will be a better place for us now and in the future.