Widows in Cameroon
In Cameroon the husband is almost everything in the family. He is the main bread winner of the household and has the final say in family matters. In fact, the importance of any wife is measured by the husband’s position or achievements in the community. In this light, the loss of the husband causes the widow great pain and sorrow. The widow’s grief is increased by negative traditional and cultural practices after the husband’s death.
Many of these practices constitute severe human rights violations, and abuses all of which compound the emotional and psychological pain of the death of a husband. Most deaths are attributed to witchcraft and in often cases society quickly accuses the wife. The ill treatment of the widow is considered a punishment, a test of fidelity and a cleansing exercise. For a period of one year the widow is prevented from carrying out economic activities and performing her new household head functions. Furthermore, in most cultures of the area a woman is considered man’s property and is not allowed to inherit the husband’s property. Rather, she becomes a possession to be inherited by the next of kin or any male relative of the deceased husband.
In some instances, the women are forced to undergo rituals to prove they didn’t cause their husbands’ deaths. Since Cameroon has close to 300 ethnic groups and an abundance of customs and practices, different traditions are applied and are defended in many communities. The practices are viewed as being inherited from their forefathers that must be preserved. Some have even vowed to never change them and to make sure that their children continue practicing them.
Widows in Canada
Unlike in the other parts of the world, widows in Canada receive survivors, death, child and other supports from the government. They also have access to resources from organisations and the internet. There are support groups from churches and other religious organisation to help them cope. There children are also able to attend school as other children because education is funded by the government.
Therefore, our support for the Canadian widows is majorly to:
- Introduce them to available services and benefits, in case they are not receiving the benefits
- Relive loneliness by organising activates and events around Christmas, Easter, mother’s day, father’s day and others
- Support them with Child care that allows them to go out for movies, dates, vacations etc.
- Provide counselling and advise on child care and other aspects of their life especially to those who are immigrants
- Other areas as situations arise
Widows in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In the DRC, once a man dies, his family turns against his wife, accusing her of never having worked and saying she therefore cannot inherit, since everything belongs to the husband. Other families accuse the woman of having killed her husband. Therefore, some women are rejected by their in-laws and excluded from inheritance. The widows are often abused and harassed by their in-laws. They are often targets of animosity, with in-laws accusing them of witchcraft and claiming they are the reason for the loss of their loved ones. Some demand that widows leave their homes, leaving behind their possessions and money. Some Congolese widow victims of armed conflict in the DRC, who struggle to rebuild their lives in the continuing violence and lawlessness of its aftermath, have a desperate need for real justice in reparations, compensation, and in accessing vital services.
Inheritance rights have been a contentious in DRC, particularly in rural areas where customary rules are seen as more important than statutory law. Legislation in DRC guarantees women the right to inherit property from the marriage, but this is overridden in practice by the view that a family’s assets are transferred down the male lineage, while a bride is regarded as her husband’s chattel with no independent rights of ownership, especially but not only to land.
The relationship between death in the family and poverty is bi-directional in the DRC. Death of the breadwinner can accelerate the level of poverty in the family and poverty can result in further deaths in the family.
Widows in Nigeria
The death of a spouse is compounded by the cultural demands of widowhood in Nigeria. Most widows are stigmatized, blamed for their husband’s death and displaced from their marital home.
Therefore, women in several Nigerian communities dread the experience of widowhood, not just because of the pain arising from the loss of one’s husband, but more so, as a result of the numerous dehumanizing rituals and practices associated with widowhood. In the end, the widows are left with their children malnourished and prone to avoidable diseases. Many of them result to petty trading because of insufficient funds to engage in a fairly lucrative business that would be sufficient to take care of themselves and their children. They engage in activities such as farming, petty trading, poultry keeping, sewing, hair dressing, cleaning other people’s home, and working as nannies and home care taker while taking care of their own children. This may lead some of their children engaging in crime and prostitution to support their family.