Widows in Africa lack enough support, says Mwinyi

ZANZIBAR: ZANZIBAR President Dr Hussein Mwinyi has urged widows in Africa to develop strategies that can be adopted by governments in overcoming challenges they face.

In his speech to grace the two – day African Widow Summit 2024 here yesterday, Dr Mwinyi said that despite various efforts taken by governments in African in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and development partners to help widows, the efforts are still insufficient, leaving women with myriads of challenges.

“I advise you to use the opportunity of this summit to develop strategies that will enable you overcome the challenges, and also ensure there is good coordination and  workable plan for the implementation of the resolutions that will be endorsed after the summit in Zanzibar,” Dr Mwinyi said.

“If we work together, we (stakeholders) will be able to build a better future for widows in the continent for years to come. I have no doubt that this summit will be able to discuss in detail the planned topics and prepare resolutions to deal with challenges facing widows,” he explained adding.

“In addition, you will be able to advise African governments on the best ways to address these challenges in order to increase the scope of widows’ participation in economic and social activities,” he said.

Dr Mwinyi said it was obvious that widows need to be officially recognised by laws, respected, economically empowered and need better health services.

Highlighting the situation of widows in Zanzibar, Dr Mwinyi explained that the 2019/2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey shows that lack of basic needs was more visible in households headed by women compared to households headed by men.

The theme for this year’s summit is ‘Women in Widowhood; Reforming the African Space’. The statement of United Nations Declaration (UN women declaration) published in 2017 in relation to women, shows the existence of more than 258 million widows around the world where more than 115 million of them live in extreme poverty.

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Dr Mwinyi pointed out that the condition of African widows has continued to worsen due to various reasons including suppressing tradition or cultural norms and lack of legal systems to protect them.

“After losing their partners, African widows often find themselves denied rights, opportunities and resources. This leaves them in difficult situation and unable to support themselves and their families,” Dr Mwinyi said.

“Widows have to struggle to support their households/ families financially, while they are denied inheritance rights. This situation leads to poverty, and limited access to education and health services for their children,” he said.

President Mwinyi said that the summit theme aims to increase the understanding of challenges facing widows so that sustainable policies to include empowerment and participation of widows and women in political, economic and social activities in Africa are in place.

Recognising the challenges of widows, the international community has been taking various measures to deal with widows. In 2010, the United Nations officially declared June 23 of each year as International Widows Day.

In addition, in 2022, the United Nations adopted a resolution to combat the poor conditions of widows, following the great efforts of various institutions that defend the interests of widows, especially the African group led by Nigeria and Sierra Leone, countries that proposed the drafting of the resolution.

Ms Hope Nwakwesi – the President of African widow summit said at the gathering: “Widows are addressed for charity, charity perspective and practices.

This poses social victimisation and exploitation. Our mission is to build sustainable and universal empowerment for African widows by pushing for structural actions from the topdown model. We need human rights that require actions from the governments.”

Zanzibar First Lady Maryam Mwinyi welcomed the guests including her counterparts from Zimbabwe Ms Auxillia Mnangagwa and wife of Kenya Vice-President Ms Pastor Dorcas Rigath, who in separate occasions held talks about the need to support widows in Africa.

Former Tanzania First Lady Anna Mkapa joined with the Zanzibar Minister of Social Development, Elders, Gender and Children Ms Riziki Pembe Juma; and the Director of widows in Zanzibar Ms Tabia Makame to thank the Union and Zanzibar governments for recognising widows and allowing the summit to be held here.

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