WOM calls for the modification of widowhood rites

Widowhood Rites
Widowhood Rites

Ms Fati Abigail Abdulai, the Executive Director, Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM), a gender focused advocacy organisation, has called for sustainable solution to modify or eliminate harmful widowhood rites for poverty reduction and economic empowerment.

She said some widowhood rites were dehumanizing while others limited the widows and their children access to economic and social activities, thereby, deepening the poverty cycle among them.

Ms Abdulai made the call in Bolgatanga at the celebration of this year’s International Widows Day on the theme, “Sustainable solutions to ending dehumanising widowhood rites,” organised by WOM.

The day was marked with route march on the principal streets of Bolgatanga by widows in the region holding placards with the inscriptions “widows are not a burden”, “stop the discrimination against widows”, “widows are not witches”, “widows are not bad luck”, “widows’ rights human rights, among others.

According to the Ghana’s 2021 Population and Housing Census, 87 per cent of the widowed population is female and these widows find themselves in 75 groups in Ghana that discriminate against them in one way or another.

The Upper East Region is estimated to have 61,725 widows and ranks sixth out of the 16 regions of Ghana in terms of widowed population.

Data from the Ghana National Household registry in 2018 also shows that 75 per cent of widows in the Upper East region are either poor or extremely poor while 61 per cent of employable widows are unemployed.

This, Ms Abdulai noted, “widowhood has become synonymous with destitution and is unacceptable and with these statistics, if nothing is done, widows and their children will remain in a poverty loop. They, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchild will stay in poverty.”

The Executive Director explained that over the years, WOM in partnership with state and non-state institutions had been working with major stakeholders to have some of the practices modified or eliminated but the advocacy had been very challenging.

“For instance, today widows can wrap themselves with a cloth instead of being naked during the performance of some of the rites of their husband’s funeral, they can also resist forced marriage; among others. We remain an eager ally willing to work with the House of chiefs to truly advance sustainable solutions to these injurious rites,” she added.
Mr Jaladeen Abdulai, the Upper East Regional Director, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), noted that apart from international conventions, Article 26 of the 1992 Constitutions enjoined the House of Chiefs to take steps to prohibit all customary practices which were injurious to people.

He, therefore, urged stakeholders in the region, particularly the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs, to consider modifying or completely eliminating all harmful and dehumanising practices to promote the dignity and welfare of widows and their children.

The Regional Director advised the widows to report cases of abuse to CHRAJ for redress and noted that discrimination was against their rights.

Naba Yelzoya Kosom Asaga II, Paramount Chief of Nangodi Traditional Area, said some aspect of the customary practices in many traditional settings in the region were outmoded, discriminatory and harmful and needed to be modified or eliminated in order to ensure development.

The International Widows Day, which was instituted by the United Nations General assembly and adopted about 12 years ago, aimed to highlight and address poverty and injustice faced by widows and their children around the world.

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