THE PHENOMENON OF WIDOWHOOD IN IHECHIOWA: THE RESPONSE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF NIGERIA

THE PHENOMENON OF WIDOWHOOD IN IHECHIOWA: THE RESPONSE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF NIGERIA

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CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

1.1  Background of the Study

Death is a natural phenomenon that binds the peoples of the world together. It is a leveler as it respects neither the king nor the peasant. It reduces both the giant and the midget to the “six-foot measure. It is the ultimate end of all living things.

Widowhood is a multi-faceted tragedy. One aged widow said, I have buried my child, my own parents are dead. In all my experiences of death, none was as painful as the death of my husband. It is pertinent to mention that the candid assessment of death by the old women was elicited only by the strong desire to make peace between two young women. These two women were bereaved. One had lost her child, the other lost her husband. The first one decided to retaliate by not visiting the second one who had become widowed because the later failed to condole with the former when she lost her child. Grief in the form of widowhood is incomparable to any other bereavement, insisted the elderly widow. Otherwise such a treatise on widowhood is unusual in women’s discussion ordinarily.

Under the misery of widowhood, women are the most marginalized in most culture especially in Ihechiowa. While in some part of Nigeria the widow


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is forced to drink that water with which the corpse of her dead husband is washed as proof that she had no hand in the man’s death.

Generally, in Nigeria and Ihechiowa in particular women have no right to inheritance and none to land ownership before the pre-Christian era. Consequently, like a mere appendage to men, women must, of cultural necessity be, the widow’s only hope and claim to the fruits of the couple’s joint labour is through her male offspring. Only sons have legal rights to their dead father’s property by the cultural tenants.

However, since religion constitutes the central belief system of human beings, it is a key determinant of widowhood practices. The various religions of the world-Islam, Christian, Judaism, Hinduism etc all influence greatly the people\s attitude to women in general and this treatment of widows in particular. The dispelling of popular or strongly held superstitutions and myths surrounding the dead and the place of women in the society can never be an easy task. Be that as it may, there is no gainsaying the fact that societies must learn to adjust to our fast changing world.

1.2  Statement of the Problem

Are there widows? Can we estimate how many they are? Who are they? Where do they live? How do they feel? How do they earn their living? How do they cope with life generally? These and many questions which have been raised about widowhood are mind boggling and deserves answers. (Damap, 2007).


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Before the advent of Christianity, women in most communities like Ihechiowa were to be seen and not heard and their presence both in the family and religious set-ups were seen as a “necessary evil”. They were not necessarily needed but were only being tolerated.

Her fundamental rights and freedom are suspended. She is subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. She becomes a prisoner and is trapped by a custom that is repugnant to natural justice equity and good conscience.

Thus, widowhood turn the Ihechiowa woman into society’s whipping-top and a receptacle for all kinds of filth and rubbish. During her one month detention , the widow is subjected to a harrowing experience unbelievable to a modern man and intolerable to contemporary womanhood.

Even when a widow escape this unjust and obnoxious verdict, thanks to the benevolent in –laws. She is still caught by an inhuman cultural practices which are deliberately invoked on her by a vicious and hostile community. She is sentenced and condemned to suffering for the rest of her life thereby subjecting her to perpetual slavery.

The widow is literally exploited by unscrupulous and sadist men and women. She is accused and convicted of being a husband killer by her community. She is then left with the traumatic experience of bringing up her child or children as the case may be. It is consequent upon the above that the researcher decided to delve into this work.


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1.3    Purpose of the Study:

In this work relevant literatures will be reviewed, the geography and origin of Ihechiowa will be highlighted, widowhood in the old and new testaments will be examined. Widowhood as is practiced in Ihechiowa and the response of the Presbyterian church of Nigeria will also be examined. Relevant suggestions will be postulated and finally a critical and comprehension conclusion will be established.

The researcher intends to investigate the root cause or causes of widowhood plights in Ihechiowa with the aim of proffering possible solutions to it. This work intends to challenge and motivate the Presbyterian Church to rise up to her responsibilities in the area of widowhood plight. A lot of people have lived in ignorance enveloped by cultural and traditional beliefs for so many years. Some people have practiced what they don’t understand and cannot explain. This research is aimed at exposing those practices which are inhuman and unchristian.

Finally, this research will help to educate both the traditional and Christian communities to rise up to their responsibilities and stop every inhuman practices meted on the widows.

1.4    Significance of the Study

A study of this nature can be an eye opener and a call to the churches, traditional institutions, communities and the society at large to rise and fight, defend, protect and care for the widow within their environment or society by teaching, provision of money and material gifts to the widows and canvassing


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for       a          total    stop     of        all        inhuman         practices        meted on        the       widows.  With the

knowledge and concept of widowhood phenomenon in Ihechiowa, the widows

should be able to know that death is an inevitable phenomenon which visits both

the rich and the poor not minding their status in the society.

Moreso, this work is aimed at educating the widows to avoid being a nuisance or parasites rather they should try as much as possible to engage themselves in the venture that may keep them busy in order to take care of themselves and the entire family.

1.5 Scope of the Study:

This will be limited to discussion or research on the widowhood phenomenon in Ihechiowa and the response of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria. The research however, does not cover all aspects of plights suffered by widows all over the world but in Ihechiowa.

However, narrowing the scope within the confines of Ihechiowa will make for a more effective study thereby presenting a critical and comprehensive position on the plight of widowhood in Ihechiowa.

1.6   Methodology

The researcher collected data through personal communication from people within and outside Ihechiowa. The data collected from both primary and secondary sources helped the researcher to do a detail study of the widowhood phenomenon in Ihechiowa and the response of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.


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