CAST OUT BY CUSTOM – A WIDOW’S TRIUMPH OVER CUSTOMARY LAW
The Goat Foundation has been at the forefront of highlighting widows’ triumph over adversity and circumstance. It is always hopeful and delightful whenever we encounter a case where communities work together to help one of their own emerge from debilitating conditions. Such a case was that of Mary through whom it was demonstrated that retrogressive customs and traditional laws that discriminate against widows could be overcome.
Mary had been married to her husband for ten years before he was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, she and her family did not have enough money to transport him to a reputable hospital for treatment. John died just a few weeks after his doctor confirmed that his cancer had progressed to stage 4.
Shortly after her husband’s death, Mary’s life quickly became unbearable. Things became difficult. She couldn’t send her children to school or feed them. Everything she and her late husband had spent years building was now under threat of being taken away. In their customary law, women were not allowed to inherit from the estates of their deceased husbands. To enforce that, they harassed her and ordered her to vacate the property where she and her husband had lived for nearly ten years.
She endured the suffering until she learned that a local Kilifi town community-based non-profit organization that looks after the plight of widows could assist her with her case. She showed up there, and the organization assisted her in getting legal representation, which resulted in a favourable ruling that allowed her to stay and raise her children in the home where they had been living with her late husband.
The court’s decision reprieved Mary as it gave her and her kids a place to live and call home. Soon after, the organization organized training on business skills so she could slowly rebuild her life, provide for her family, and send her kids to school.
With her small savings, the training, and the enablement she received from the organization, Mary opened a small shop that sold household items to the community. Using the business skills that she had learnt; she was able to grow the business to the point that it could feed her children and pay for their school fees
Many women, like Mary, experience the same fate following the passing of their husbands. Most of the land is typically owned by men. Most traditional families do not write wills, and in the event of a man’s passing, all land and property are reclaimed by the male relatives, mainly brothers and uncles rather than their wives or children
The help that Mary received from the charity organization, went a long way in reviving the hopes she had of taking care of her family. It ensured that there was no hunger and that her children attained the highest form of education. The training she got to start her business will help her grow and flourish in business and ensure that there is no poverty in her household.
The Goat Foundation remains at the forefront in championing for widows’ rights and looks forward to the day when widows will be regarded as equal family members and therefore achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for social and economic justice for women. We are continually expanding our partnerships and associations throughout Africa and with the help of our partners, we believe we will transform the lives of millions of widows.