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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Upper East: COVID-19 still baring teeth at widows

In furtherance, resisting the “wife inheritance” disqualifies a widow from inheriting the late husband’s property both cash or structural. Image: WOM.

COVID-19 cases in Africa are low as compared to Europe, England, and the Americas. This could be attributed to various reasons including the large youth population in the Continent, World Economic Forum report says.

Available data reveals older people infected with COVID-19 are at considerable risk of severe illness. According to the World Economic Forum report, in sub-Saharan Africa 3% of the population are older (thus 65+ years), and 43% are below 15 years old as compared to the European Union 20% old population (65+ years), and 17% young population (under 15).

This notwithstanding, some local charities, whom majority of the vulnerable depend on for livelihood are severely affected. The Widows and Orphans Movement, a Non-Profit Organization alleviating the plight of widows and orphans in the northern regions of Ghana is one of such local charities.

The establishment of WOM was partly due to the practice of some social and cultural practices such as widowhood rites, a practice mostly in the Upper East region an parts of the northern region which is affecting the fundamental human rights of women.

Traditionally, men in northern Ghana are the bread winners of their families, and after their demise begins the woes of the widows. Widows according to customs of the Gurune and some other ethnicities in the Upper East, Upper West, and Northern regions may be forced into what is called the “wife inheritance.”

This cultural rite allows the families of the deceased to choose a brother or relative of the late husband to marry the widow without her input or own decision to either remain unmarried or marry a man of her choice.

In cases where a widow manages to remain unmarried, she inevitably faces maltreatment and shun by her husband’s family and community and usually accused of witchcraft, having bad luck, or being the brain behind or aware of the circumstances surrounding the death of her husband.

In furtherance, resisting the “wife inheritance” disqualifies a widow from inheriting the late husband’s property both cash or structural.

But Ghana has laws to ensure spouse (widow) and children inherit properties of deceased spouses (widower): Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992, Administration of Estates Act, 1961 (Act 63), The Wills Act, 1971 (Act 360), Intestate Succession Act, 1985 (PNDC Law 111), Intestate Succession Amendment law, 1991 (PNDC Law 264), Conveyancing Act, 1973 (NRCD 175), The Marriages Act, 1884 – 1985 (Cap 127).

The Intestate Succession Law, 1985 allows spousal inheritance of property and assets, recognizes the spouse(s) of the deceased, their biological or adopted children, surviving parents and the customary family and most importantly priorities spouses and children.

But due to ignorance and illiteracy, many of these widows do not demand their due.

WOM’s therefore strides towards empowering about seven thousand widows, by providing them with various interventions including providing viable and sustainable livelihoods among other interventions.

This entails encouraging widows to produce various products: baoboab oil and powder, shea butter, and smock-traditional handmade clothes to sell in the local and international market with WOM serving as their intermediaries or sales representative.

However, the emergence of the pandemic has affected sales and rendered most of the women jobless. Madam Fati Abigail Abdula, National Director of the Widows and Orphans Movement, (WOM), says sales of produce by widows reduced from 150,000 Ghana cedis in 2020 to 80,000 Ghana cedis in 2021, which is a 60% reduction.

She explained that some of these women secured loans to produce their respective products, hoping to sell them to support their families. However due to the global impact of COVID-19, demand for their products reduced drastically.

She explained that people stopped placing orders for fear of contracting COVID-19 through product delivery.

“COVID-19 has really affected the expected income of the women and most of them have had loses”, she said. “Most of these women are vulnerable and inherited nothing from their late husbands because they refused to undergo inhuman rituals, the market channels we have created for them is their major source of livelihood, so they are devastated” Abdula added.

She said donors have revised the form of donations from cashing  to donating food items, personal  protective equipment, and embarking on sensitization about COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is a pandemic unlike malaria; hence we were not prepared for it, taking us by surprise means we need the collective effort of everyone in supporting these women.”

Global aids….

The government of Ghana launched a Coronavirus Alleviation Pro-gramme (CAP) Business Support Scheme to support small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information gathered reveals more than 8,000 eligible business owners applied for the GH¢600 million support scheme. Responding to a question about whether the charity applied for support from the scheme, Fati revealed she applied for the relief fund, but did not receive the funds as WOMS business was classified as a “medium scale business.”

“They said they will get back to us but never did” she recounted.

Meanwhile, some members who individually applied for the support to the National Board for Small Scale Industries received some funds of up to “Ghc 500” though not enough to support them.

This story is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project.

By: Felix Lambert Dangma|www.zamireports.com|Bolgatanga.


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