April 26, 2017
IBADAN, NIGERIA — Folasade Johnson lost her husband 11 years ago in a car accident in which they were both involved. She was hospitalized for months and when she recovered she was allowed to return to their matrimonial home only once to pick up a few personal items. A member of her late husband’s family supervised the little time she was allowed there.
“I had to start buying everything all over again, even [things] as small as spoons,” she says.
Inhumane treatment of widows is common in many Nigerian communities. Some, like Johnson, have everything they have worked for taken from them.
“Widows face many challenges in Nigeria,” she says. “There is a lot of stigmatization, as if she caused her husband’s death. Some are maltreated. Others are lonely. Some find it difficult to start life again.”
After her forced exit from her late husband’s house, Johnson was taken in by her godmother for a year. After which she rented a one-bedroom apartment from some of the cash gifts she received following her husband’s death. With a 15,000 Nigerian naira (about $49) loan from a small micro-finance bank, she started a business of selling chin chin, a local fried dough snack.
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Her godmother’s act of kindness gave Johnson the support she needed and she is now passing the gift on to other widows by founding a support group – Hope Soars Foundation for Widows.
Launched in December, the foundation organizes regular get-togethers for widows in the area. In a recent meeting, participants heard a talk about how to stay healthy and each widow left with a 5 kilogram- (about 11 pound-) bag of rice and six yards of Ankara cloth.
Johnson says she began the meetings to help promote a sense of community belonging for the widows, whom are often ostracized.
“I dream of a rest house where widows who have been thrown out of their late husband’s house can have a place to go. There, they can learn skills with which they can make a living for themselves,” Johnson says. The idea is the widows then can in turn train other widows, she says.
“Usually many widows feel lonely but with this network, I hope that they can have a sense that they belong somewhere, to a family,” Johnson says.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Folasade Johnson’s name in the lead caption. The article has been updated. Global Press Journal regrets this error.