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The Founder, Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF) and First Lady of Benue State, Dr. Eunice Ortom has stressed the need for legislations that would provide the legal framework to protect the rights of widows and see that women sit at the decision making table at the traditional level.

Dr. Ortom made this known during a one-day Consultative Forum with Stakeholders on the “Proposed Bills on Eliminating Harmful Widowhood Practices and Women Inclusion in Traditional Leadership in Benue State”.

The First Lady who lamented that aside bearing the anguish of the loss of their spouses, widows also suffer severe psychological trauma and bear the socio-economic burdens of paying sundry bills and putting up with many dehumanizing treatments such as isolation during mourning, forceful ejection from home, takeover of their farmlands and denial of rights to inheritance among other distasteful practices.

Dr. Ortom, a strong voice for women emancipation, maintained that everyone has a part to play to bring an end to obnoxious treatment of widows and noted that legislation was one of the most reliable ways to curb the ugly trend. This, she pointed out, was the reason her Foundation in partnership with the Benue State Gender Based Violence and Policy Implementation Committee and Office of the First Lady took up the gauntlet to propose a bill that would eliminate the inhumane treatment of widows.

Dr. Ortom who further advocated for fair women involvement in decision making at the traditional leadership level, averred that they should be allowed to extend their inborn potential for peace-building in homes to the larger society for it to become more peaceful for all.

In her remarks, Chairperson of the State GBV Advocacy and Implementation Committee, Prof. Magdalyn Dura described the First Lady’s move to propose such invaluable legislations as “historic” saying that it would add to her previous milestones to promote the interest of women and give them a voice.

On her part, State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Tabitha Igirgi, herself a widow, thanked Dr. Ortom for creating the forum for such discussion and described the bills as “legacies to stand for the First Lady when the history of the State will be told”.

Speaking on behalf of the socio-cultural organisations in the State, President-General, Mzough u Tiv, CP Iorbee Hia, disclosed that he was elated by the First Lady’s move to propose such landmark bills and expressed optimism that, like the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition Law, the new laws would be a template that would be replicated by other States in Nigeria.

Member representing Ado State Constituency at the Benue State House of Assembly, Mrs. Agnes Uloko, pledged to galvanize support for the proposed bills from all members of the Assembly and stressed the need for people to write wills to secure the interest of their families.

Other speakers including representative of the Ter Makurdi, Chief Vincent Awule, the State Coordinator, He-For-She Network, Mr. Nathaniel Awuapila, State Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and representative of the Federation of Moslem Women Association of Nigeria, FOMWAN, Dr. Maryam Yakubu among others expressed support for the proposed bills and commended the First Lady and the partnering organisations behind them.

Representatives of different widow groups including Mrs. Perpetua Oche, Mrs. Elizabeth Adio, Mrs. Elizabeth Olema and Mrs. Victoria Abari  representing different ethnic groups lamented the harrowing experiences they underwent as widows and expressed joy that the laws that would be passed from the proposed bills would help ameliorate their plight and wipe the tears off the faces of long-suffering widows in the State.

Emmanuel Enenche Umele


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