The partnership between one of Nigeria’s frontline humanitarian support organizations, the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, and the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) on the protection of the rights of widows in Nigeria has recorded appreciable gains since its inauguration a year ago.
Speaking during a live news appearance monitored on Nigeria Television Authority’s NTA International, Hildagard Chineze Desmond-Ihekaire, the AWLA Coordinator for Rivers State, said through the fully funded Widows Project by the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, which AWLA implements as a Partner, some widows in Rivers State who braced the courage to step forward with their travails have received various levels of support.
Hildagard, who also spoke on other media platforms during sensitization visits to media houses to commemorate the International Widows Day 2021, emphasized that free services from counselling to legal representation in court were an integral part of the support systems available to empower widows to deal with the myriad of problems they face following the demise of their spouses.
The AWLA Coordinator for Rivers State noted that irrespective of the existence of laws prohibiting the dehumanization of widows in Nigeria, the political will by State actors and policy makers remains to be seen in addressing the plights of widows. According to her some of the perpetrators of the dehumanizing treatments against widows are supposedly knowledgeable, exposed, and respected members of society.
“We received a complaint involving a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who following the death of his brother has seized his properties without recourse to the deceased’s widow or children. These are the issues. Thankfully, the matter is in court although not as a part of the Widows Project. But we are following the case seriously,” she said.
In a related development, the South-South Coordinator of the AWLA, Cordelia Eke while speaking on the gains of the Partnership between AWLA and the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, said the funding of the AWLA Handbook of Widows Rights by the Foundation has made it possible to have a reference material on the issue, which has now made public education and engagement easier. She also said the provision of a toll-free number 08000023111 as a helpline for widows has made it possible for embattled widows to reach out and seek help at no cost.
Dr. Mrs. Seinye O. B. Lulu-Briggs, the Chairman Board of Trustees of the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation said her harrowing experience as a widow despite her personal visibility and appreciable support structures, exposed her to the travails of other widows who may not be as fortunate. She said that accounted for the Foundation’s staunch interest in the plight of widows.
“Sadly, as this year’s theme for International Widows’ Day, “Invisible Women, Invisible Problems” conveys, the deplorable plight widows face when their husbands die remains obscure in development circles.
“The United Nations recognizes that widows across the world are often ‘invisible’ to policymakers when they draw up and execute policies. ‘Invisible’ to researchers when they carry out studies on poverty. ‘Invisible’ to community members when ‘culture and patriarchy’ dictate behavior. ‘Invisible’ in families where they lose their status as soon as their husbands die.
“Try as we may, to make widows ‘invisible’, they are very much a part of our communities. Widows are definitely not invisible to the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation. It is for this reason that, in partnership with African Women Lawyers Association, we setup and are funding the Widows Project to protect the rights of widows, amplify their voices and make them visible as equal and respectable members of our society,” Mrs. Lulu-Briggs said.
The partnership between the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation and AWLA among others, continues to offer free legal services, material support and scholarships to widows in Rivers State, including widows of fallen heroes of the Nigerian Army.
Activities marking the 2021 International Widows Day by AWLA and the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation included sensitization outreaches that took advocacy to Churches, Communities and the media in an effort to create awareness about the plights of widows in order to elicit the cooperation of the populace in ending them.