In an enthralling fashion inside Moremi Hall in University of Lagos, Yaba Lagos State, support was in no short supply for widows in countries with traditional practices, as the founder Felix King Foundation, Dr. Felix King, Pop star, Harrison Tare Okiri popularly known as Harry Song, rapper MI Abaga, internet sensation, Charles Okocha aka Igwe Tupac and comedian Bayegun Oluwatoyin, popularly known as Woli Arole among others urged the United Nation to declare June 23 Zero Maltreatment Day instead.
It will be recalled that, on December 22, 2010, the United Nations 65th General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to establish June 23rd International Widows Day. This day is an annual, global day of action to raise awareness about the cultural discrimination of widows.
The year global theme is “Developing resources and policies to empower widows”
Although accurate information is limited, it has been estimated that there are some 258 million widows around the world, with over 115 million of them living in deep poverty.
Data on women’s status are often not disaggregated by marital status, so at every level of gender statistics, from national to global, widows are not visible. Yet we know that many elderly widows face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, based on their gender, age, rural location or disability. Others are still young when they lose their husbands, perhaps as a result of conflict or because they were married as children to a much older man. These women face a long lifetime of widowhood.
Beyond mere celebration of this day as set aside by the UN, the foundation has moved to seek the UN to declare June 23rd Zero Maltreatment Day hence the Widows Rights Movement flag off. The movement is simultaneously held across the world in these countries – Nigeria, Ghana, The US, Canada and the UK.
According to Dr King, “the widows’ rights movement is a Felix King Foundation’s organised international movement campaigning for the abolishment of widows maltreatment, while advocating for United Nations (UN) declaration of June 23rd, as a zero maltreatment day for widows in countries with traditional societies where women suffer human rights violations with membership spread across the world”.
Speaking on how widows can be liberated from the intersecting discrimination, Dr. King tells the UN that the road to total freedom and economic empowerment of widows starts with declaration of June 23rd as zero maltreatment against widows and it is one day at a time,” he said.
“The ultimate goal of the day is to develop resources and policy to empower widows and allow them to have access to education, work, healthcare and lives free of violence and abuse, while enables them to create a life for themselves and their children following the death of their husband and ending a cycle of poverty and abuse,” he said.
Harrison Tare Okiri aka Harry Song a pop star who performed at the event to support the movement said widow’s maltreatment in Nigeria and Africa at large should be outlawed. “I vehemently speak against this obnoxious practice in our society and the UN should take a step forward by declaring June 23rd Zero Maltreatment Day.
“The practice is widespread in developing countries and the appropriate authorities should move to ending it because maltreating our women, mother, daughters and sisters amounts to drawing ourselves backwards,” Mr. Okiri stated.
An internet sensation Charles Okocha aka Igwe Tupac, who shots o fame with the “Accolades” condemned the practice which he tags ‘unnecessary’.
According to him “the whole world abhors this practice and he should be spoken against in our country so that we can move forward and that is the only way to prosperity.”
Dr. king who frowned at continuous victimization of widows said once widowed, women in many countries often confront a denial of inheritance and land rights, degrading and life-threatening mourning and burial rites and other forms of widow abuse.
“Widows are often evicted from their homes and physically abused – some even killed – even by members of their own family. In many countries, a woman’s social status is inextricably linked to her husband’s, so that when her husband dies, a woman no longer has a place in society. To regain social status, widows are expected to marry one of their husband’s male relatives, sometimes unwillingly. For many, the loss of a husband is only the first trauma in a long-term ordeal,” he said.
In many countries, widowhood is stigmatized and seen as a source of shame. Widows are thought to be cursed in some cultures and are even associated with witchcraft. Such misconceptions can lead to widows being ostracized, abused and worse.
Apart from performances from Harry Song, Wole Arole, Igwe Tupac and MI, University of Lagos undergraduates also took time to demonstrate the ill of widows’ maltreatment in our society through drama.
He therefore, urged the UN to declare June 23rd Zero Maltreatment Day to signpost the serious attach to the widows across the world.
Ororo Pattaya directed a short 60 second film with voice over by M.I Abaga which had be aired in both Nigeria and international media