Widows in Nigeria face multiple challenges including rejection, poverty, mental health and abuse. The dynamics and intensity of the hardship suffered vary across the geo-political zones of the country.
There are approximately 25 million widows across different cultures in Nigeria, most of whom pass through harmful traditional widowhood rites and practices, which have attracted the attention of the global struggle in general on violence against women. Sufficient evidence suggests that the widows are severely affected financially, psychologically, sexually and socially.
A Lagos-based banker and philanthropist, Mrs. Chinwe Bode-Akinwande, said her concern for the trend gave birth to the CBA Foundation, a non-governmental organisation in 2015, through which she orchestrates various initiatives to assist widows across Nigeria with impactful and life-enriching programmes.
Since then, the CBA Foundation has consistently dedicated personnel and channeled resources to promoting the protection of widows and their vulnerable children in Nigeria.
Interestingly, of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), five are being addressed through CBA programmes and sustainability approach, which include driving sustainable businesses for the underprivileged widows, promoting education, empowering people, supporting our communities and sustaining the environment.
Revealing her motivation further, CBA echoes Poverty in Rising Africa, a 2016 World Bank Group Publication stated: “In Nigeria, the worst status for widows can be linked to inheritance practices and cultural attitudes and norms towards widows associated with certain ethnic and religious groups.”
She noted that the worrisome statistic is backed by research carried out by her foundation in September 2023 where 316 respondents out of 1,193 said the most common issue faced is violence; while 877 respondents said the most common issue they face is Inheritance.
In 2023, CBA had impactful engagements with the widows via different programmes and phases towards the end of the year. In December 2023 alone, the foundation’s efforts impacted no fewer than 430 widows in Lagos, Ogun and Anambra states, ending the year on a brighter note.
The events were aimed at raising awareness, providing support and empowering underprivileged widows who are often rejected and forgotten in society.
Through initiatives such as the Walk4Hope event, Hope Stores, skill acquisition workshops and free medical outreaches, the CBA Foundation made a significant impact in the lives of widows across the country.
Walk4Hope Event: One of the key 2023 outreach events was the Walk4Hope, an annual charity walk designed to raise awareness and funds for underprivileged widows. The 8th edition of the Charity Walk took place in Lagos on November 11, 2023. Individuals and corporate bodies participated, and seven participants were financially empowered with donations worth N700, 000 to start their own businesses.
These widows were guided into various business sectors, including beverages and provision, second-hand clothing, groundnut and garri, charcoal, engine oil and jewelry.
Hope Stores: During the outreach, the CBA Foundation launched the Hope Stores initiative, which falls under the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) of the foundation. The Hope Stores is a shop where items such as hope bracelets, hope inspired T-shirts, art crafts, Adire fabrics, and others are sold. The initiative also promotes the talents of widows as the items produced by them are sold in the store. Hope Stores initiative creates a value chain to ensure long-term sustainability of the foundation’s efforts to protect and promote the welfare of the participants and their children. The net proceeds from the sales of the items at the Hope Stores are reinvested into the foundation’s programmes.
Free Medical Outreach and Food Distribution: The end-of-year outreach took place in Lagos, Ogun and Anambra. It combined free medical outreaches with food distribution to underprivileged widows. Nurses conducted medical check-ups, and widows received necessary medications. Additionally, they received food items such as rice, spaghetti, groundnut oil, seasoning cubes, salt, snacks, tin tomatoes and drinks. The outreach reached a total of 430 underprivileged participants in the three states.
Empowerment: During the outreach events, the founder of the CBA Foundation emphasised the importance of resilience and resourcefulness for participants. She encouraged them to be skillful and resourceful in their endeavours, reminding them that widowhood is not a stop sign but a new chapter in their lives. Mrs. Bode-Akinwande also highlighted the significance of taking care of their health and well-being, urging them to be positive and prayerful.
Reacting to the impact of donors’ support, the founder said CBA Foundation has made significant progress in supporting the target group and empowering them with various initiatives.
“So far, the foundation has reached out to over 9,641 participants through women empowerment and capacity building programmes, provided health interventions to over 5,585 underprivileged widows, distributed food items to over 11,790 widows, reinstated 162 children in school for quality basic education, and financially empowered 252 widows to start their own businesses,” she noted.
The foundation’s podcast, “Hope For The Widow,” has also recorded over 24,573 downloads, further spreading awareness and support. The CBA Foundation’s outreach events in 2023 have reinforced an unrelenting commitment and passion towards supporting and empowering widows and other less privileged individuals across Nigeria.
Through initiatives such as the Walk4Hope event, Hope Stores, skill acquisition workshops, free medical outreaches, and food distribution, the foundation has further extended a new lease of life to widows hitherto forgotten in the society.