Int’l Widows’ Day: CSO makes case for housing scheme, allowances for Nigerian widows
A civil society organisation, Help for the Society, Justice and Peace Initiative has called on Nigerian governments and other stakeholders to provide housing scheme and monthly allowances that would cater for the basic needs of widows, especially the poor ones.
The organisation, in its message marking this year’s International Widows’ Day with the theme: “Innovation and Technology for Better Equality,” lamented the suffering, abandonment, inequality, rejection, loss of opportunities and stigmatisation that most widows go through, calling on concerned authorities to prioritise their welfare and protect them against abuse.
According to the Executive Director of the CSO, Barr. Nkem Chukwu, there are some widows who can’t pay their rent, their childrens’ school fees, and many cannot even feed themselves if not supported, stressing that that stakeholders should empower widows to be economically viable.
Chukwu said, “Widows are women who have lost their spouses. They suffer stigmatisation, inequity, discrimination, injustices, rejection and loss of opportunities. Many women who are widows are childless, aged, unemployed and whenever they lose their husbands, it becomes very difficult for them to thrive. There are cultural barriers that worsen their situation. That women can’t own land in some communities make people to drive them out of their husbands homes. Single parenting is making children to be wayward and government and other stakeholders should not be quiet.
“Government should have monthly allowance for widows and it should be a social welfare scheme that has to be steady. Government should also consider grassroots widows. Widowhood has grades, there are poorest of the poor, some can’t pay their rent, school fees, feeding if not supported.
“It’s the duties of MDAs and stakeholders to have empowerment scheme where widows are included. They should be given soft loans. There can be scholarship set aside for education and training for widows and their children. Some widows are young and they can still go back to school.”
Speaking further on other ways that government could promote the welfare and rights of widows, Chukwu said, “I will recommend that the government institute a housing scheme for widows. I say this because many widows are homeless and they come from communities waging war with their neighbouring community in which many of them have been displaced to Internally Displaced Persons homes, and even when they return to their homes, these homes would have been destroyed by events of war, thereby making it very impracticable for them to be housed or have shelter.
“It, therefore, behoves on government to ensure that shelter, which is a primary need of human is provided for widows, taking into consideration the fact that many widows are poor, taking also into consideration the fact that having building in today’s Nigeria is a very capital-intensive project that many widows cannot embark on. It is then the duty of government to allocate lands because many of these windows don’t have lands.
“Government from time to time does land allocation to individuals and in this regard, widows should be given priority so that many of them can benefit from having access to land. In this housing scheme, there should be efforts by government to erect buildings where these women are given free of charge while those who work can pay as they earn from their works and businesses in subsidized form, not to pay everything government has spent no matter how bouyant the widows are.
“These homes will give them the opportunity to have peace of mind and articulate because without a home, one may not have that serenity to articulate things that one may want to do as human. Without home, widows won’t be able to train their children and the children themselves will wander about like criminals. So, it’s the duty of government to provide shelter particularly for widows.”
She tasked other civil society organisations to provide mentorship for those who have lost their husbands, adding that, “It has to do with getting older women who have successfully passed through widowhood, get younger ones among them to give them empowerment, trainings, counselling and ways of handling critical moments as widows. Some have the challenge of confronting rebels in families and child support. Their capacity can be built with trainings by CSOs. They can also introduce them to complain lines whereby their complaints can be addressed by the government.”
“Widows face a lot of maltreatment, rejection and abuse by families and other segments of the society and this should not be allowed to continue,” she noted.