Many widows in Nigeria are dying in silence-Olori Yemisi Jaiyeola

widows in nigeria

By Wilson Adekumola

The Founder and Executive Director of Serendipity House Widows Foundation and God Wives International Widows Ministry, Mrs. Ayo Yemisi Jaiyeola, (a.k.a Olori-Ayaba) has bemoaned the insensitivity of government to the plight of the widows in the country saying many of them are dying in silence.

She made the observation while speaking with Church Times during the celebration of the World Widows Day with the theme: “Make Widows Matter”, held on Thursday 23, 2022.

Mrs. Jaiyeola who has been a widow for 14 and a half years said the hardship of widows go through is heartbreaking.

Four million widows in Nigeria

“Presently, we have an estimated 4 million widows in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the government does not have this statistic. It is not even aware of their plight. When it is time for an election, they know how to rally around. They know the name of their ward councils and members. They sometimes even try to reach out to widows because they want their votes. But as soon as they get to power, they are forgotten.”

According to her, “ if the government is serious about the plight of widows in Nigeria, it should collaborate with non-governmental organisations to reach out to them on a regular basis. It may not be practically possible to have government engage widows in every nook and cranny of the country. But there are bodies that can work with the government so they could find a way of ameliorating their plight.”

Widows cry daily

Jaiyeola who started the widows’ organisation 28 years ago with her husband when he was alive said, “Widows face a lot of challenges. Many people don’t understand the plight of these people.  I have interacted with hundreds of widows across the country.

“Widows in Nigeria are made to cry daily. Some of them lose their homes after their husband’s demise. Some have to fight over their husband’s property. In some churches, they are treated as burdens. Some women are even threatened when they see widows around. They are afraid the widows may take their husbands. Widows are vulnerable and some take advantage of them.”

Making reference to scriptures, Olori Jaiyeola said “God is the husband of the widow. The only person we can turn to for help is God. He is the one that can touch the heart of men to help us. And that is why I will like to encourage widows to keep away from vices because we can’t be living in sin and expect that God will fight for us”.


Widowhood, an epidemic 

Jaiyeola said “many women are made widows on a daily basis. No woman prays to be a widow. But that is the reality facing us as a nation. Men die daily through sickness and accidents. Some die without any known reason. Some men have also lost their wives. But the case of the woman is pronounced because they don’t really get to remarry in many instances.

“Widowhood is worse than COVID-19. COVID-19 has come and gone but widowhood continues. It is an epidemic like cholera. Unfortunately, a widow can’t attend all programmes that the married attends. We cannot go to couples’ meetings to join husbands and wives in a dinner party.

“They would ask for your husband. Unless you remarry which the Bible does not go against if you want. You decide whether you stay with your children or follow another man. But usually men out there are only interested in exploiting widows.”

She urged the widows to pray so that no evil will happen to their children “As you can see in this organization, we have Muslims and we have Christians. We are all together irrespective of religion. The reason you are alive is that you have to do something good for yourself and for the world at large.”

Need for more NGOs

Olori Jaiyeola making a point at the celebration

 

Jaiyeola who is also the chapter president of the Maryland Lions club noted that government policy has not helped NGOs to thrive adding that the process of registering an NGO is cumbersome. “I don’t know why it should cost as much as N250, 000 to register an NGO that is supposed to help government do what it is meant to do.

“In the Lions Club, we repair roads, renovate schools, and you force us to register with stringent conditions. So the government has failed us” she said.

She also made a case for more NGOs that will make the plight of widows their focus saying it does not cost much to run such organisation. “I was not rich when I started 28 years ago. Today about 25 percent of widows are rich. Only one percent of the 25 percent support poor widows. I want to appreciate everyone that supports the ministry both materially and financially.

“We are in it together we should establish and build the relationship. In a group like this, we need fun, fellowship, and friendship. Widows have no right to fight themselves. If they do that means they are adding to their burden. All over the world today, they are celebrating as we are celebrating here. Today is the day chosen for the widows. Celebrate and enjoy yourself. Do whatever you can to make yourself and your children happy.”

Widows Day, an opportunity to celebrate

The Widows’ Day according to her is an opportunity for widows to celebrate. “It has been a yearly tradition for us to celebrate widows since we began this organisation. But the June 23 date for the celebration was instituted when ‘Loomber Foundation’ took widows’ matters to the United Nation over ten years ago to have a global date to celebrate widows. We used to have a separate date before then”

A member of the Anglican Church, Jaiyeola pleaded with widows to be involved in productive ventures that will put food on their tables.

Widows, pray for your children

Evang. Victoria Amoo who preached at the event urged the women to employ prayer as a weapon to fight their battle. “We are going to use prayers to fight our battles. When we cry to Him He will listen to us. God wants us to cry to Him concerning our lives, concerning our children, and concerning this country.

“We cannot fight the battle but God will fight the battles for us if we cry to Him. Let us call Jesus on behalf of Nigeria. Let us do away with unscriptural things like gossip, prostitution, and all that.”

What widows say at the event

At the event which took place at 301/305, Ikorodu Road, Maryland, Lagos some of the widows shared their experiences with Church Times
Mrs. Olusola Fagbenro said, “I am a widow of 16 years but I joined this group about seven years ago. The group has been very supportive. We meet here every third Saturday of every month to pray, and worship.
“We get a series of encouragement from the founder. When someone has a problem among us we discuss it together. A problem shared is a problem solved. I must say that my life has been greatly impacted by the group.
For Mrs. Mary Onabanjo the state of the widows in the country is pathetic. She said “they act as both the father and mother of their children. Many usually have nobody to help. We need the government to look into our situation.
In her own words, Esther Jaiyeola said, “it’s an inspired event which mends the heart of the widows. We thank God for helping us. All the materials we get here are the generous donation of some kindhearted people.
“Without doubt, some children of widows have become internet fraudsters but this organisation has trained us to train our children to become godly children. This organisation has greatly impacted us.”
The secretary of the group, Mrs. Nwanze Francesca said, “ a lot of widows are living unhappy lives. Some are hated by their husband’s families. A lot of widows have been pursued out of their husbands’ homes. That was what brought about this initiative. It has really given me hope for a better life.
“I am a retired Director of Education at least I can still fend for my family. But what about those who do not have the means to take care of their family? I will advise that widows should find something of worth to do instead of selling their bodies.”

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