Some Widows in the Upper East region have called on the Regional House of Chiefs to modify or abolish some cultural practices that are injurious to widows and their children.
They said in this era of modernity where efforts were being made to promote inclusive development and participation, women, particularly widows and their children were still subjected to various forms of dehumanising widowhood rites, deepening the poverty cycle among them.
They, therefore, called on Mr Stephen Yakubu, the Upper East Regional Minister, to work with the House of Chiefs to modify or completely discard all harmful practices to promote the rights, dignity and wellbeing of widows and their children.
They made the call in Bolgatanga, in a statement to the House as part of activities marking this year’s International Widows Days on the theme: “Sustainable solutions to ending dehumanising widowhood rites.”
The commemoration was characterized by a route march on the principal streets of Bolgatanga with the women holding placards with inscription “widows are not burden”, “stop the discrimination against widows”, “widows are not witches”, “widows are not bad luck”, “widows’ rights human rights, among others.
The event was facilitated by the Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM), a gender focused advocacy organization.
Madam Beatrice Saah, the President of the Widows Network, who read the statement, said although it was commendable that government had taken steps to ratify, formulate and roll out policy and legislations to promote the rights of women and children, many widows were still discriminated against in the name of culture.
She said apart from Article 26 of the 1992 Constitution, various international conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, frowned at traditions that were dehumanizing.
“Some traditions in the Upper East Region still make widows and their children
undergo witchcraft tests, purification rites and wife inheritance that remain injurious and contravenes Article 26 subsection (2) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana which states that “All customary practices which dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited,” she lamented.
The widows, therefore, called on the Regional House of Chiefs and the Upper East Regional Minister to urgently abolish all practices that degraded the rights of widows and orphans, including sacrificing an animal on the head of a widow, forcing widows and orphans to consume unhygienic food and concoction among others.
“We are calling on you to stop placing bodies of deceased men on the laps of first-born children to prevent the transfer of diseases and allow widows and children to keep the remaining foodstuff after final funeral rites for their upkeep to minimize hardship”, it added.
Naba Yelzoya Kosom Asaga II, the Paramount Chief of Nangodi Traditional Area, who received the petition on behalf of the Regional House of Chiefs, promised to relay the information for utmost consideration.
He said it was about time traditional authorities took steps to modify some of the cultural practices particularly those that were dehumanising to ensure sustained development and reduction of poverty.