Statement by Her Excellency, The First Lady, Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa on International Widows' Day commemorations.
Today, 23 June, is a historic day the world over, were we commemorate the International Widows' Day. We observe this symbolic day in memory of the hardships that widows face when their spouses die. Our beloved Zimbabwe is not spared from such problems faced by widows in our communities.
Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Widows' Day, under the theme "Invisible Women, Invisible Problems." The Angel of Hope Foundation is reflecting on some issues affecting widows, including widows with disabilities and what can be done to safeguard and to advance their rights.
No problem faced by these bereaved women is "too small to see." Borrowing a leaf from the Sustainable Development Goals #5: We should thrive by 2030 to empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all irrespective of one's status.
Whilst most widows experience a lot of challenges, in scenarios where following the loss of a partner, their basic rights and dignities are often violated, the situation is worse for widows with disabilities who often suffer triple discrimination: --that of
1) having a disability,
2) that of being female, and
3) that of being a widow.
Allow me to read from James Chapter 1 Verse 27 which commends us: "... to look after orphans and widows in their distress... "
Today, as First Lady I come to all the bereaved women of Zimbabwe and I say: To the young widows who endure sleepless nights with infants in arms.
To the busy ones, who juggle the pressures of home and family life.
To the resolute ones, who nurture and care for our orphaned children. To the older ones, who love and support their precious children and or grandchildren.
To the Sunday widows who care for our children and lead them in faith.
May the Good Lord bless you now on this your special day.
Fellow Zimbabweans, widows are a major part of our society hence the need to accord them with due respect. The majority, if not all Zimbabweans, has been affected by death of a father/husband/ bread winner, in one way or the other.
Each family, household and community, has been touched by this merciless enemy.
Traditionally, widows are considered a useless asset of society because they get involved in the battle of survival and they can do little in terms of major tasks.
I for one, I am dishearten with any such expressions and argue that widows can do a lot for their nations if their energy and potential are channelised.
As Amai, I have seen it necessary to cushion widows against both visible and invisible hardships, under Angel of Hope Foundation, we seeks to bring the voice of widows to the forefront and to work closely with widows including widows with disabilities, to promote their rights, and to help them to generate economic empowerment programs so that they can be able to fend for themselves and their families as well as to access basic services, such as sexual and reproductive health care.
Why is International Widows' Day important?
International Widows' Day is important because it spreads awareness about the challenges widows face worldwide and helps us to find ways to help those widows. After all, they are part of our society, thus our lives.
International Widows' Day is important because it breaks the traditional stigma: that widows are outcasts;
that they bring misfortune; that they are a waste to society; that they are a burden on national wealth, which they cannot play a productive role in the well-being of society, which they do not have the right to remarry.
This day is very important to break all these stigmas that have caused a lot of unending harm to these vulnerable human beings.
I strongly encourage all heartbroken widows to stop crying for their husbands and start supporting yourselves to solve problems on your own.
On this International Widows' Day, as Amai/First Lady, I come to reaffirm our commitment as a nation to supporting all widows, regardless of age, location, or legal system, and ensuring that they are not left out or left behind.
Bearing in mind that women, in particular, widows endure additional household burdens during this Covid-19 pandemic. This Covid-19 pandemic has presented enormous social and economic challenges, straining existing systems that are already grappling with beavered women.
I encourage all sectors of our society to support these bereaved women of Zimbabwe.
I say to all Zimbabweans, search for widows in your neighbourhood and help them as much as you can. You can give them some money, find them a job, or raise funds for them. Let us move towards addressing the harmful traditional beliefs and practices about widows, including widows with disabilities, which result in their isolation, exclusion and discrimination.
Measures that have been done to alleviate widows
I am pleased to note that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe launched the National Disability Policy of Zimbabwe on 9 June, 2021 -- which among other things illuminates the right of persons with disabilities including that of widows with disabilities, to own or to inherit property. The National Disability Policy also states that persons with disabilities including widows with disabilities should not be unreasonably deprived of their property.
As Angel of Hope Foundation we have worked to touch their lives through entrepreneurship programmes that help widows with income generating projects. I hereby urge all sectors in our communities never to shun away from extending helping hands to these bereaved women.
There is need to integrate widows, including widows with disabilities in community structures through their participation in both rural and urban networks, that are created and sustained in each province and district, so that widows can exchange information and share ideas with others as well as garner support.
As the First Lady, I have and am still working on how to lessen burden faced by Zimbabwean widows, through my initiatives at Angel of Hope Foundation: Cooking and Cleaning for the Elderly Programme. We have seen it essential to liberate widows from the threat of basic needs scarcity so that they would perform productive tasks.
In addition, as Angel of Hope Foundation we work towards empowering the marginalised, ill-treated and widow victims of violence who suffer from sexual abuse and harassment or forced remarriage. These misfortunes must be addressed, by tackling the norms that are used to justify such discriminatory cultural practices and violence.
The law of this land provides for relatively equal property and inheritance rights for men and women. As a result, the ability for widows to keep property/ inheritance they shared with their fallen husbands is a basic human right.
We should all seek to uphold the basic rights and dignity of widows in our country. I therefore call for an end to the discrimination and marginalisation of widows including widows with disabilities in Zimbabwe.
I thank you.