Traditions & Ceremonies
December 25, 2013 | Roseline Orwa
As I pen this article, we are 10 days away from marking Christmas. The only one day of the year associated with joy, giving, laughter and holiday cheer but also with lots of traditions that come with the season’s mood. Does an African widow know it is Christmas? My answer would be ‘YES’, but in many cases that I know of, that does not mean she has the means nor the resources to enjoy the seasons cheer, though not in all the cases, worse cases are found in the rural set up where poverty reign supreme and many live on less than one dollar a day.
In our cultural set ups, many occasions are marked with slaughtering of animals, chicken, goats, lamb, and sometimes even bulls. The African tradition believes in blood being shed for occasions and events. Many families gather at Christmas, but it is so easy to find widows missing at these events due to cultural practices that leave them left out, more if the widow has not been ‘inherited’, (it normally connotes sexual cleansing and must be done without protection), it is important to note what the Western world calls re-marriage is far from widow inheritance in the African culture. This ceremony marks the acceptance of the widow back to the society and hence be allowed to participate in family gatherings and community events. Woe unto the widow who refuses to be inherited, her agonies, stigma and abuse will be endless, as I will highlight in another article.
It is easy to be around happy people if you are happy, sadness needs no company, I have met and have many times visited widows who have chosen to be lone rangers in the society for fear of stigma and often abuse from past interactions. A widow’s own children sometimes gang up against their mother in cases where the woman stands to follow her own principles running against the cultural expectations and traditions on death knocking. The whole village is often flowered with tales of the bad omen the widow is carrying and how certain ills must befall her if she stands firm and not follows the set traditions. Married women often talk in all manner of tones on the plight of this kind of widow at the market, watering points or along the village paths. She often is the topic at many community gatherings. Leaving her a lonely broken soul, who sometimes does not even find solace and company in the church.
During this season, my advice to the widows is to take a deep breath. Relax. Be open to possibilities of being alone or with family. And at all times, they must never be afraid; they must be able to look fear in the eye, amidst traditions, culture and ceremonies which are so dehumanizing to any soul, and to constantly remember that death is non-negotiable. It will come to all men at one time or the other. A widow must stand up and be strong for herself and more importantly for her younger children.
We, the African society are 1st cultural beings then citizens of a country. Anyone who watched the burial of the Great son of Africa – the Late Nelson Mandela will have seen it all. Will we on our own ‘STOP WIDOW ABUSE’? NO. The rest of the world must help us speak. And speak louder.
Next month, I’ll share on January, the hardest time for the widow and orphans.
By Roseline Orwa
World Wide Widows
‘STOP WIDOW ABUSE’