THE Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Rivers Chapter, says it has distributed palliatives to 57 widows in the state to cushion the hardship caused by the COVID-19 lockdown.
Dr Vetty Agala, President, MWAN Rivers Chapter, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday that the association gave the widows some food items.
“The association organised health talks on COVID-19, menopause and healthy living for them.
“We also provide counselling services and in collaboration with women lawyers, we intervene in cases of harmful widowhood practices,’’ she said.
The official said women were much less likely to have access to old-age pensions compared to men, so the death of a spouse can lead to destitution for older women.
“In the context of lockdown and economic closures, widows may not have access to bank accounts and pensions to pay for healthcare or to support themselves and their children if they too become ill.
“With lone-mother families and single older women already particularly vulnerable to poverty, this is an area that needs urgent attention,’’ She said.
According to her, COVID-19 pandemic has worsened this situation by increasing the number of women experiencing the devastating loss of a husband.
“It has exposed them to harmful widowhood practices that cut them off from the usual socio-economic and family support.
“Experience from past pandemics, for example, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, shows that widows are often denied inheritance rights, have their property grabbed after the death of a partner.
“They can face extreme stigma and discrimination, as perceived ‘carriers’ of disease,’’ she said.
Agala, however, advised widows to be strong in their struggle and looked on the brighter side and see God as their husband, saying; “your mental health is very important.”
“More importantly speak up for your rights if anyone is infringing on them; report all forms of violence and harmful traditional widowhood practices to MWAN in your state or to International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)
“MWAN recognises that losing a loved one is devastating and traumatic; with widows, this trauma is magnified by a long-term struggle for their basic needs, their human rights, and dignity.
“MWAN Rivers commits to providing widows with information that aids access to their fair share of inheritance, land and productive resources.
“We are committed to providing information on pensions and social protection that is not based on marital status alone but decent work and equal pay and education as well as training opportunities.
“We are also committed to empowering widows to support themselves and their families by addressing social stigmas that create exclusions, discriminate or harm.’’
Agala said the association had on June 23 joined the global community to celebrate the International Widows Day, to raised awareness for widows to be supported.
“We used the occasion to raise awareness for them to get support to go through an incredibly difficult time and ensure widows receive their full rights and recognition.
“According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty.
“However, the actual number is likely to be much higher and to increase further as coronavirus and its related effects on health, continues to rage around the world.
“Widows have specific needs. Unfortunately, their voices and experiences are often absent from policies that impact their survival,’’ she said.
In addition, she said in many countries with traditional societies, women find themselves left in poverty when their husbands die.
“In some countries, these women find themselves denied inheritance and land rights, evicted from their homes, ostracised, and abused,’’ the official said.
– Jun. 29, 2020 @ 11:55 GMT |