This year’s International Widows Day was celebrated on Sunday with local activists calling on Kenyans to “be kind to a widow because their plight worldwide is dire”.
The celebrations were low key save for a series of activities lined up by Rona Foundation (abbreviation for Relationships.Opportunities.Networking.Advocacy) which works with widows and widowers on loss and grief.
Despite lack of funding for the only loss and grief project in Kenya, Rona officials said their organisation has been helping thousands of people let go of loss and grab on life again through social forums, sharing, awareness and support systems, and creation of loss and grief centres for orphan and widows support.
The international widows day was launched last year. In Kenya, the now Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero was the chief guest.
Last Saturday, the organisation launched the first widows online magazine. The magazine is an affiliate of Modern Widows Club, Orlando. Roseline Orwa, who is the founder of Rona Foundation, is the only widow contributor from Africa under World Wide Widows.
The magazine can be accessed on http://www.modernwidowsclub.com. Officials from the organisation also visited a 26-year-old widow living in the slums of Jua Kali in Tassia whom they have been supporting through the ‘widow hosts widow’ programme.
“We have also been sharing and donating food and home supplies with other widows and well wishers,” said Orwa. On Sunday, the officials visited a newly widowed mother of two at Pipeline estate in Nairobi. She was also put on the support through the ‘widow hosts widow’ programme.
The organisation has so far embarked on a project to build two houses for two widows under the programme ‘Sponsor a house for a widow’.
“We want to re-build the widows’ homes and their lives,” Orwa said. The officials say many widows have been subjected to customary ‘cleansing’ rituals involving having sex with a member of the deceased husband’s family or a stranger thereby hugely increasing the chance of contracting HIV.
Cases of widows being looked upon with hatred and suspicion have been on the rise and are considered to be evil and to have brought bad luck to their in-laws family.
“Most of them have been accused of being involved in witchcraft and are therefore systematically tortured and attacked – to the point of murder – or forced to commit degrading acts such as eating human waste or even human flesh,” Orwa said.
She added that many have not been given proper burials and have been simply disposed of. They have been accused of murdering their husbands or causing their death by insufficient care – when in fact the husband has died from HIV-related illness or some other cause.
Other cases involve the widows being robbed of their inheritance and/or land and personal belongings by their deceased husband’s family and their children taken away from them by the extended family.