No fewer than 15 million widows in Nigeria suffer and are living in abject poverty, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has said.
Mrs Hauwa Shekarau, the National President of FIDA, said this at the 2015 International Widows’ Day in Abuja on Tuesday.
The theme of this year’s event is “Curtailing the menace of harmful traditional practices against widows”.
Shekarau, however, said that the girl child needed education and empowerment to ensure her sustainability during the time of eventualities which included the loss of her spouse.
“When you educate a girl child, she grows into a woman and gets married; she will be empowered with the knowledge to train her children.
“When she is also empowered and unfortunately loses her husband, she can rely on the skill she has to sustain herself and her children,” she said.
The president said that Section 15 of the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act sought to affect the life a widow. “Anyone who subjects a widow to harmful practices will be sentenced to three years in prison or fined with the sum of N500,000,” she said.
However, she called on all legal practitioners and stakeholders to ensure that the VAPP Act was properly domesticated in all states of the federation to ensure the protection of the rights of widows.
Mrs Amina Agbaje, Chairperson FIDA, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chapter, also said that children of widows were faced with diverse challenges and thereby unaccounted for in the society.
Agbaje added that children face horrors attributable to homelessness, child marriage, illiteracy, loss of schooling, forced labour, human trafficking, sexual and violent abuse.
“Many of these women and their children are malnourished, exposed to disease and subjected to extreme forms of deprivation.
“Widowed women experience targeted murder, rape, prostitution, forced marriage, property theft, eviction, social isolation and physical abuse,” she said.
She observed that the plight of widows were not just an issue within the region, adding that it cuts across the globe.
The chairperson said that widows in developed countries face social isolation, commonly live with severe insecurity and poverty due to lack of affordable healthcare and employment.
On her part, Mrs Chioma Onyenuchaya-Uko, Assistant Public Relations Officer FIDA, FCT chapter, said it was important that women were empowered even while their husbands were alive.
Onyenucheya-Uko added that when situation happens that they lose their husbands and were not empowered economically, they find it difficult to cope owing to emotional and psychological trauma.
She noted that marriage for a woman was perfect but would be the ultimate if the woman was empowered in case of the demise of her spouse.
Mrs NKechi Oriri, a widow at the event and a mother of four children, said she lost her husband over 14 years ago and had struggled to sustain herself and her children independently.
Oriri lauded the efforts of FIDA for their willingness towards assisting widows in the country, adding that widows were molested nationwide.
FIDA at the end of the programme was expected to empower 30 widows who had been their clients with stipends and also to enhance community development.