Conversations around how different cultures and segments of the Nigerian society treat women, especially widows have piqued recently. Culturally, we know about harmful practices that Nigerian women are faced with when their husbands die. We know how widow’s rights to properties are limited and the challenges with remarriage. We wanted to hear first hand experiences, so we asked 5 widows about life after their husband’s deaths.
Here’s what they told us:
Mrs. Julie, 54
My husband died in 2005. While he was alive, I didn’t know that he had properties here and there. We lived in a rented space, me, him and my daughter. It was after he died that we now started hearing about properties here and there and family members coming out from different places to claim their own share. At first, I thought that we were lucky because my husband left a will. In the will, he left a few things to my daughter. Television, fridge, sewing machine, things like that. He didn’t leave anything to me though. Then we found out that he left the bulk of everything in his account and also some properties to a wife and sons that he had outside. I almost died. I’ve since gotten remarried, but if men can be that wicked, just know that now, I’m wiser and walking with precaution.
Mrs Bisi, 45:
My husband was sick for a while before he died. I’m a Christian, so I wasn’t supposed to think about him dying. I wasn’t supposed to plan ahead because it would be like I was planning for him to die. However, my head wasn’t going to let what happened to my mother happen to me. After my father died, my uncles sent my mother out of the house my father built and she had no place to go.
So I started planning before my husband died. I hid all the important documents and changed the locks to the house. I told my children to be on guard too. I ensured that I knew of all his properties and even asked him to write a will. He didn’t write the will, but I thank God no one came to claim anything upon his death.
Will I get married again? I don’t know. My children have been encouraging me to get married, but I’m not ready.
Mrs Victoria, 74:
I’m my husband’s second wife. His first wife died at least 10 years before he died. We got married shortly after she died. They had like 6 children together. I don’t have any children for my husband. I knew that the children didn’t like me from the beginning. So I was expecting them to throw me out of the house when he died. They didn’t. They even give me a monthly allowance for upkeep. However, before he died, some of his relatives came to the house and started ransacking the house, looking for what to carry. I was not around because I was with my husband in the hospital. I am fortunate that some of the tenants alerted OPC members to go and deal with them, if not, they would have carried everything. They haven’t tried to do anything since then. As for marriage, ah, my time don pass.
Mrs Chika, 38
We had just gotten married when my husband died. I was pregnant. It wasn’t even up to two days before his brothers and sisters started showing themselves. They cleaned up the apartment from the cars, to the night wear he wore to bed. They took everything. I was devastated and helpless. If I tell you that they took all the food in the fridge along with the fridge, you won’t believe me. I remember that there was bread, the bottom of bread and a small plastic of butter. They took it. It was difficult deciding to go back in with my parents, but I went back and they welcomed me. That’s where I’ve raised my son since then.
Even after everything one of my husband’s sisters told me that while I’m raising their son, I must NOT remarry. I’m interested in marriage just because of that.
Mrs. Bola, 62
My husband and I were already separated before he died. We had serious issues and were on our way to a divorce. However, he died before that happened and people started accusing me of witchcraft and of killing him. They didn’t know just how much of his money was my money, or how much of ‘his’ properties actually belonged to me. So when they tried to come in and take it all, I too showed them I was mad. I’ve been dating since before we even separated. I even moved in with one of the men. My children said, no mummy, it’s too soon, it’s this, it’s that. But is it their life? As for marrying again, I don’t think I can. Life is better without men.
*Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.