Bolanle Ambode: Setting Agenda for Empowerment of Widows | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Bolanle Ambode: Setting Agenda for Empowerment of Widows

Posted: Mar 23, 2016 at 8:40 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Yemi Adebisi, Lagos

Stepping out in grand style for what could be described as a missionary launch to those held by the pangs of widowhood, the wife of the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode has pledged her commitment to fighting the cause of widows in the State with a view to free them from all forms of degrading and dehumanizing treatments, even as they get adequately empowered to maximize their full potentials.

This she said recently during her maiden empowerment summit under the umbrella of Hope For Women Foundation (HOFOWEM).

Speaking at the occasion, Ambode emphasised that there is no way the society can thrive when widows are marginalised or oppressed.

“No society thrives in an atmosphere where widows are continuously ignored or schemed out of welfare calculations. Societies only thrive when the burden on widows are made lighter and the less privileged are assisted in a number of ways to live better lives,” noted Ambode.

Further enumerating their plight, the First Lady hinted that “the condition of widowhood is a better pill that no woman ever wants to swallow. At the point of marriage, we all wish the union would last forever but there comes a painful time when one of the partners must depart. If the husband leaves first, then widowhood comes. All the family responsibilities shared by both partners in the past will now be borne by the woman alone. Her own feeding and upkeep, the children and their school fees, accommodation for them and other pressing necessities, pressure from the late husband’s family and other issues further complicate her condition of anguish and usually succour is slow in coming.”

While expressing great delight at what she described as “a long-desired and cherished opportunity to put smile on the faces of women and others who need to have a hand of help extended to them.”

Mrs. Ambode assured that HOFOWEM will make the welfare of women and children its primary concern.

“Within the schedule of its humanitarian mandate is the welfare of widows, aged women, children, children, babies, sick and recovering women and children as well as general feminine issues,” she stated, adding that “the happiness of these people is our happiness and the happiness of all is the collective happiness of our society.”

Ambode therefore urged widows in Lagos to take the issue of economic empowerment very seriously.

“They must seek to be gainfully employed through a regular paid job or vocational skill, (which the Lagos State government has made freely accessible through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation) in order to generate regular income to meet their vital needs. A stable income gives some guarantee of happiness and preserves the dignity and self worth of the woman.”

Corroborating this, the coordinator, HOFOWEM, Mrs. Oyefunke Adeleke explained that “the vision is birthed based on the fact that we have discovered that often times, adequate help does not come for widows. We have numerous cases of unemployed widow s and in worst cases, some of them cannot even access their late husband’s properties not to talk of enjoying it,” she said.

“So, this foundation is primarily concerned with the welfare of women and children. It is established to pursue the ideals that will always bring joy and support to this group of women,” added Adeleke.

Assistant Director, Skill Acquisition Programme, Ministry of Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), Mrs. Toyin Onanuga, also testified to the fact that in Lagos State, poverty alleviation has been achieved through skill acquisition.

“In Lagos state we have 18 skill acquisition centers that are specifically designed to train indigents. In addition to this, there is micro-finance assistance for those that need loans to kick start their businesses. So, Skill Acquisition Programme (SAP) is the panacea for unemployment.”

Speaking on the rights of widows, Barrister Omotola Rotimi from the Office of the Public Defendant (OPD) argued that many widows suffer severely, not just because of the custom and tradition of the society but also because some do not know their rights. She identified some of the unfair treatments they suffer as confinement; disfigurement; denial of Inheritance; rejection/ostracisation and transfer to late husband’s sibling as additional wife.

To forestall this and other forms of unjust treatment when a woman loses her spouse, she charged women to opt for legal marriage in addition to traditional/religious wedding.

Her reasons: “A wife that is legally married is entitled to one-third of her late husband’s property but with traditional marriage, only the woman’s children have right to the man’s inheritance. Where there is a will, such a will helps the widow get a letter of administration so that she can get her entitlement as well as that of the children.”

Barr. Rotimi upholds as unconstitutional some of the treatments widows go through.

“Dehumanisation and degrading system is unconstitutional. Discrimination and domestic violence are acts that contravene the law. These and many more are the issues that OPD brings to the front burners even as we help women seek justice,” she said.

On hand to share her personal experience was Evangelist Rachael Adetunji who spoke on how to overcome the storms of widowhood. Having lost her husband in 2004, she assured that the death of a husband or wife is not the end of the world but quickly added that the reason why many women are unable to pull through is because “they are lazy; wasting precious time as talkative or they are busy chasing after other people’s husband.”

Narrating some of her ordeals after her husband passed on and left two children behind who were still in primary school at the time, she said that in order to make ends meet, she did all kinds of job.

“I started as a cleaner, then l went to learn tailoring and later catering. l had serious accommodation problem and had to move from place to place. There were times we had to sleep outside. There were times our luggage was thrown outside in the rain but later, from my little savings l was able to get accommodation. The Bible says in Philippians 4 vs 13, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.’ That includes widows and everyone that looks up to Jesus for help. ‘ ”

In all, a total of 32 widows were financially empowered by HOFOWEM, even as 14 families blessed with multiple births (twins and triplets) were also given cash support to cushion the financial burden of fending for their bundles of joy. Also, two women received financial assistance for heap replacement surgeries.

Four Non-Governmental organisations equally received a boost from Mrs. Ambode to support their humanitarian services towards cancer patients, autism patients and women living with HIV/AIDS.

Speaking on behalf of all the recipients, Mrs. Yemi Dada, a journalist with FRCN who recently became a widow could not help but betray emotions; saying that “widowhood is a very traumatic situation and its better imagined than experienced.”

She however expressed profound appreciation for the kindness shown to them by the wife of the governor and prayed that the good Lord will preserve her family and cause them to flourish more and more.