THE continuing plight of widows globally has been identified as a threat to the realisation of Millennium Development Goals, MDGs numbers one, three and eight which seek to end poverty, promote gender equality and engender global partnership.
Most widows are said to live below poverty line, suffer gender discrimination and neglect by government, civil society organisations and the communities they live in. It is a situation still begging for comprehensive interventions at all levels.
This urgency is aptly captured by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, while speaking ahead of activities to commemorate the inaugural international widows’which will hold June 23, 2011. Said he: “We must recognise the important contribution of widows, and we must ensure that they enjoy the rights and social protection they deserve.
Death is inevitable, but we can reduce the suffering that widows endure by raising their status and helping them in their hour of need. This will contribute to promoting the full and equal participation of all women in society. And that will bring us closer to ending poverty and promoting peace around the world…”
According to ‘Women 2000’ a 2011 UN report published by the UN Division for the Advancement of Women to promote the goals of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, widows comprise a significant proportion of the population of the world women ranging from seven to 16 percent of all adult women. The report also suggests that widows worldwide constitute the greatest percentage of the poorest of the poor as they lack of education.
Widows outnumber widowers
The report also indicates that widows far outnumber widowers globally. It also revealed that there are more elderly widows in developed countries while there are younger widows in developing countries. This is attributable to the high incidence of armed conflict, HIV/AIDS and poverty in the developing countries of Africa including Nigeria.
There are efforts internationally to intervene on widowhood issues but these amounts to a drop in the ocean compared to the weight of the issue. Key actors in Nigeria include the Federal/States Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the church, civil society and private initiatives. However, a lot of these actions are ad hoc in nature and lack coherent and sustainability elements hence, the need for comprehensive and sustained interventions.
However, in some states, there just might be a ray of hope. Aligning with the world agenda, Obioma Liyel-Imoke, wife of the Cross River State Governor, will launch another initiative – GLOW, an acronym for Giving Life Options to Widows, on June 23 2012, to mark the World Widows Day. The project will be implemented by POWER – Partnership Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment Realisation, an NGO which she founded in 2007.
GLOW aims to improve the quality of life of widows in Cross River State. Some of the mid to long term realisations of the GLOW project according to a document from the Office of the Wife of the Governor signed by Project Director, Tammie Kammonke, are: enhanced livelihood options for 1,980 widows across the 18 Local Government Areas in Cross River State through access to skills training, micro finance and micro enterprise services; increased cooperation between and among widows and widows-focused organisations through the formation of widows cooperatives and networking, increased public awareness on widowhood issues in the State through information, education and communication, IEC, activities, enabling policy environment for widows through an advocacy campaign targeted at policy makers amongst other things. Target date for achieving these objectives is 2015.
To ensure sustainability of the project, implementation will be phased, starting with a pilot to a scale up phase to ensure the methodology is tested for best result and best practices. Though statistics of widows in Cross River State are not readily available, according to project director Kammonke, there are a significant number of widows in Cross River State and a need to respond to their needs.