I have had a relatively short journey into widowhood but it’s been a sheltered one. However, I am daily confronted with the realities of so many women who have lost their life partners and have suffered greatly for being widows through no fault of theirs.
We’ve all heard of such stories or they may even have been part of our realities growing up. Stories such as: women being made to drink the water used to bathe their dead husbands, in order to absolve themselves of being responsible for his death.
In-laws storming a man’s house even before he is buried to cart away valuables leaving their “beloved” brother’s wife and children in penury.
Women staying indoors wearing all black or all white for months to mourn their dead husbands.
The stories abound and some are so pathetic like the one I recently heard of a woman whose rent became due just after her husband’s death and who begged the Landlord for a 3 three months period of grace to pay the rent . He agreed on the condition that she sleeps with him.
The three months period passed quickly and when she still didn’t have money to pay and no where to go to she turned to him again and he agreed to a further extension with the proviso that his friend too should have cuddle rights to her.
Do I hear you say, why did she agree to that? It’s very easy to judge people when we are not in their shoes. A woman is most vulnerable when her husband dies and sometimes in the midst of the emotional pain when she is still trying to figure out what has happened to her, she is helpless in the hands of her tormentors. Also, the level of education, enlightenment , social status and temperament plays a great part in the way we each handle situations.
The Yorubas have a saying. Eni kan lo mo ( it’s when it concerns you that you will know ). A lot of us have seen or heard of these practices being carried out in our families and /or communities but are either silent for various reasons or are too self absorbed to notice what is going on.
It is worrisome and disturbing that a lot of these practices are on going in this day and age in our country and we have to start talking about them. A growing number of women are fighting back against the status quo but it is at a great cost to their social and emotional health. The truth is that there is a stigma attached to women who have had the “ misfortune” of losing their husbands and this stigma shows up everywhere, culturally, socially and even in our churches and mosques.
It shows up when a woman’s friend changes towards her because she feels she may snatch her husband or when she goes to rent a house and the Landlord doesn’t want a single woman as a tenant as she might turn his house to a brothel entertaining her male friends.
It shows up when her late husband’s friend who was of great help in the beginning suddenly stops asking after her welfare because his wife is jealous of the help being rendered. It shows up when people avoid the widow’s company because they don’t want to be infected with the spirit of untimely death.
As I stated in an earlier write up a lot of these practices are carried out by women who are not only the enforcers of culture but the foot soldiers of patriarchy and it behoves us therefore to take a closer look at what happens in our families and communities when a married man passes on.
Let’s ask questions as to why things are the way they are, let’s resolve to protect the women and her children, let’s challenge the status quo remembering that, that woman could be our daughter, sister, friend or mother. Let’s do unto others as we want them to do unto us bearing in mind the fact that every woman (ourselves inclusive) is a potential widow.