African Wonder Women Organisation (AWWO), is set to challenge what it described as the stereotypes and injustices allegedly meted out against African widows, both on the continent and the diaspora.
The convener, Folaji Fasanya-Omoyeni, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that she aims to improve relationships and encourage women to speak up against stigma, stereotypes, and biases through the event they experience.
She said the group plans to hold a virtual event on the subject with the theme; “Every Emotion is Valid” and is scheduled to hold on February 13, 2022.
Mrs Fasanya-Omoyeni said AWWO was birthed following the loss of her husband at the onset of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is an initiative that I set up while grieving the loss of my husband during the pandemic. The biases, stigmas, stereotypes, and name-calling I went through helped me understand my emotions and encouraged me to find healthy outlets for expressing them,” she said.
She noted that while grieving her husband, she connected with widows and others grieving the loss of loved ones.
She added; “They talked about their losses and let me know how my ability to articulate my feelings and emotions during my grief had inspired them.
“So, it occurred to me that we needed to do more of this type of talking, we needed to encourage African widows to express our feelings and let the world know the treatment African widows face because what we experience, following the loss of our husbands or partners, is different to what other widows around the world experience.”
Fighting stigma, stereotypes
Although based in the United Kingdom, the creative IT consultant stressed that she still experienced stigma and biases while living in the diaspora.
She said; “Growing up in Africa, I know from what I read and what people talked about- that widows living in Africa experience these biases, but I never actually imagined that widows residing in diaspora would also experience similar degrading treatment.
“Hence, AWWO’s aim is to redefine widowhood and give African widows and women a voice, the tools to improve relationships, and a safe place to express their emotions, not only as widows living in Africa but also those in the diaspora.
“Our focus is on African widows because what we experience is highly degrading and humiliating, and we need to partner with others working on the same vision of putting a stop to this appalling treatment of African widows.”
The multiple award-winning fashion designer and creative director of UK-based clothing line, Ffolaji London, said African widows also experience bias.
She further explained; “The biases we experience vary, but they are still demeaning and degrading. They still infringe on our rights, beliefs, persons, and finances. The distinction might be that there are laws in the diaspora that prevent your deceased spouse’s relatives from coveting what you and your late husband both worked for.
“The legal system in the UK, where I live, even goes further to state the percentage of an estate left behind that should go to the living spouse. Unfortunately, however, the name-calling and abusive treatment is still experienced.
“As an African widow, your social status means nothing to those who are out to deprive you of your rights and dignity.
“They look past your status as a widow and believe you’re not deserving of any respect, empathy, or support for your loss. They perpetuate this injustice, and you should be punished for losing your husband, as such, even when it comes to financial support or inheritance, you lose everything!”