International Widows Day 2022: The pain of a widow in Baba village North West Cameroon

By Ngwa Jolenta Rose Afanwi 

For some women in the North West region of Cameroon, losing their husbands also means a long-term fight for their basic rights, income, and possibly their children. 
In some parts of the region, there are widowhood rites that many observers deem as dehumanizing.They include sleeping on the floor for months, walking barefoot, and eating only from a particular plate.

There is a woman in Baba one village, in Ngoketunjia division called Grace Anwe, who lost her husband about four years ago. On the occasion of the international widows' day, she recounted what she describes as the ordeal of widowhood. 
"Immediately my husband died at the  shishong hospital, my husband phone was sized from me, the key to our medicine store was taken and the key of our room. As tradition demands I was given a small mattress to sleep on one corner of the floor of my living room till when his corpse will be buried "

 Her suffering, began the moment her husband died at the hospital. As preparations for his burial were ongoing, Grace Anwe was moved out of her bed room and sent to sleep on the floor

 "A day after the burial,  Some elderly widows  in the village took me to the stream barefooted early in the morning, gave me a bath. After that I was brought back home put to seat by the door my hair was shaved with blade."

The 34 old woman with three children, was given strict instructions not to leave the compound or carry out any activity for a period of one month"I was to stay like that for a period of one month, there after my hair was shaved again for the second time and I was given one black dress to wear for a period of one year. I was warned never to sleep out of my house for that one year, not to plate my hair ,do any make up or wear no earrings. But I was allowed to go out of the compound at this point."

With all her husbands assets confisticated,  Grace Anwe says sponsoring her children and caring for their needs is an uphill task 

"My husbands lands were all sized , the key of his bike taken and uphill date his phone which had money inside has not been given to me. My husband had three children with another woman after his death the woman came and left the children with my old mother in law who was unable to take care of the children who are all presently with me. I have to go beg farms and work with the children so that we can eat and for the past three years the children have not been able to go to school. "
She regrets that her husband was the sole provider reason, she is suffering from financial hardship. 

Based on experience, Grace Anwe encourages women in the North West to be economically empowered describing it as the best weapon in such circumstances.

Besides other problems, many women suffer from a financial perspective. It becomes difficult for them to meet their daily needs and basic healthcare facilities after the loss of their spouse. Therefore, this day gives an opportunity for all to stand in their support and make their living conditions much better.

According to the United Nations, there are over 258 million widows around the world out of which many are left unsupported and denied their basic rights.

International Widows Day was introduced by the United Nations in 2011 to highlight the voices of widows. The day is meant to take action for the complete rights and recognition of widows. Notably, before the United Nations, the day was observed by the Loomba Foundation in 2005. The foundation chose June 23 to mark International Widows Day as on this day in 1954, founder Rajinder Paul Loomba’s mother Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba became a widow.

The United Nations suggests that empowering widows to support themselves and their families also means addressing the social stigmas that create exclusion and promote discriminatory practices.

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