The O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, in partnership with the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA), stormed Rumuji Community in Emohua Local Government Area on Thursday, June 23, 2022, to commemorate this year’s International Widows Day in the community and to sensitize the community on the negative effects of violence against widows with theme: Sustainable Solutions for Widows Financial Independence.
Widowhood remains a harrowing experience any woman can go through in our clime. In a lot of cases, grieving widows are subjected to obnoxious cultural treatments like having her pubic hairs forcefully shaved, forcing her to drink water sieved from her late husband’s corpse and not being allowed to bath for fourteen days, in addition to wearing black or white clothes throughout her mourning period.
And where she refuses to budge, she is accused of being a witch and being responsible for the man’s death!
In some cases, the death of a husband emboldens his siblings or ‘friends’ to swoop on his properties, with cooked up excuses that he had used the properties as mortgage for some monetary transactions.
The event, which held at the Rumuji Town Hall, attracted over one hundred widows. Community sources said the number could have quadrupled if not for the fact that Wednesday is the community’s market day.
O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation and AWLA officials led by the AWLA Coordinator, Dr. Hilda Desmond- Ihukaire, first paid a courtesy visit to the Nyenweli Rumuji, HRH Ohna Christian Okachineke Elechi. The traditional ruler welcomed the visitors and thanked Dr. (Mrs) Seinye Lulu-Briggs, Chairman of the O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, for deploying her God-given resources to help the downtrodden in society.
Speaking through the Palace Secretary, Ohna Lambert Njoku, the monarch also expressed gratitude to Dr. Lulu-Briggs for celebrating with widows in the community and prayed for God’s blessings upon her life.
He also thanked the Coordinator of the African Women Lawyers Association, Dr. Hilda Desmond- Ihekaire for presenting him with a copy of a handbook on the plight of widows in Nigeria.
The arrival of the august visitors at the Rumuji Town Hall caused a stir as the widows gave them a thunderous and a standing ovation. One could see from their facial expressions, that the prospect of receiving the O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation was indeed a dream come true. No wonder that those faces which clearly bore signs of pain and agony, suddenly livened up as the visitors stepped into the hall.
Dr. Desmond-Ihekaire explained the objectives of AWLA include providing free legal services to widows. The O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation and its AWLA partners promised to make this year’s World Widows Day memorable by taking over all court cases against widows in Rumuji community free of charge.
Dr Desmond-Ihekaire disclosed that with the active support and funding from the O. B. Lulu- Briggs Foundation, her organization is currently handling several cases for widows in Rivers State, including two at the Customary Court in Rumuji.
“June 23 has been set aside all over the world to celebrate International Widows Day. It’s not only in Nigeria that widows face problems,” she said.
“Women face issues like disinheritance, abandonment, ostracism and so on. Because of our deep traditional belief that a man is not supposed to die before a woman, women are often accused of killing their husbands, and that’s where AWLA steps in for rescue.”
She urged the gathering to contact the group whenever they know someone confronted with such a predicament.
Desmond-Ihekaire revealed the good news that the Rivers State government has enacted four laws tailored to protect the rights of widows and women in general.
She listed the laws to include the Abolition of Harmful Traditional Practices, the Wills Act and Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, all to ensure that widows are protected by the law. She educated the audience on the importance of knowing about and standing up for their rights which these and other laws protect. In line with this year’s international widows day theme, Sustainable Solutions for Widows Financial Independence, she also encouraged widows to engage in money making ventures to sustain themselves and their families.
As part of the event the widows received bags of rice, cartons of Indomie noodles and food packs.
Some of the widows expressed their appreciation to the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation and the African Women Lawyers Association for ‘wiping tears from their eyes’.
Mrs. Comfort Uchendu narrated her ordeal in the hands of her late husband’s brother who allegedly sold the only piece of land left behind by her husband, on the claim he was going to use the proceeds for his brother’s burial.
“He never used the money as promised. With the aid of AWLA I’ve taken him to court to seek redress”, she said and thanked O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation for picking up the bills.
Another widow, Mrs. Aleruchi Onyebuchi, said she would seek assistance from AWLA about current threats from her late husband’s siblings who covet a portion of land belonging to her late husband.
In her goodwill message, Mrs. Ijeoma Amadi, who represented ACG Bassey James, the Zonal Commander, Zone L Port Harcourt of the Nigerian Security Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, spoke about ‘How to Avoid Conflicts.’ She urged the widows to take advantage of the partnership between AWLA and the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation and report any issue suffered by a widow at the nearest office of the NSCDC for prompt action.