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Kenya urges African Union to establish widows fund

Mrs Rigathi made the recommendation during the first African Widows Summit held in Zanzibar

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Pastor Dorcas Rigathi, the spouse of the Deputy President in Kenya, on Thursday, urged the African Union to set up a fund to support widows in the continent.

She gave this recommendation during the first African Widows Summit held in Zanzibar, which would be considered and included in the final conclusions drafted at the end of the Summit and presented to the African Union for consideration.

The President of Zanzibar, Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, opened the three-day summit that was attended by First Lady Zanzibar Mariam Mwinyi, First Lady Zimbabwe Auxillia Mnangagwa, Former Zanzibar First Lady Mama Shadia Karume, Former Tanzania First Lady Mama Anne Mkapa, and President Union of African Widows Ms. Hope Nwakwesi, among others.

More than 800 widows attended the Summit from Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, and Sierra Leone.

Pastor Dorcas also called on African nations to organize widows within their boundaries into cooperatives, Saccos and CBOs so they could harness their potential and take advantage of the entrepreneurial spirit of the African population.

“In Africa, we have the spirit of enterprise and women are very enterprising. Let the Africa Union come with a policy where the widow is at the centre in areas of business and investment. Let the African Union also establish a fund where women borrow without all the bottlenecks and hindrances, and adequately financed to engage in different types of businesses,” said Pastor Dorcas.

President Mwinyi in his speech identified with the plight of widows, and urged nations to look more keenly into their suffering and ways of alleviating the difficulties they face throughout their lives.

“Widows should be legally recognized and respected, economically empowered, and availed the necessary health interventions, and also education. It is our responsibility to ensure widows are not stigmatized, they are not looked down upon, taken advantage or humiliated,” said President Mwinyi.

In her speech, Former First Lady Tanzania, Anne Mkapa, identified with the struggles and challenges goes through having lost her husband, Former President Benjamin Mkapa in the year 2020.

“Addressing the issues affecting widows in Africa requires a multifaceted and comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of widowhood, and empower the widows to access their rights and resources. It may be useful if African countries were to enact and enforce laws that protect the rights of widows. This can help prevent exploitation and mistreatment and ensure widows have access to the resources they need to support themselves and their families. Countries should also raise awareness about the challenges faced by widows and help change cultural attitudes and practices that stigmatise and exclude them,” said Ms Mkapa.

Pastor Dorcas also participated in a panel discussion on the economic empowerment of widows together with Madam Irene Nambuli, Commissioner of Oaths in Zambia.

She shared details of the widows and orphans program under her office, which starts with dealing with the emotions and psychological feelings of a widow.

“The man does not die with the mind of the woman, so we need to facilitate the woman and make sure she is resourced in the right way. Economic empowerment of women should start with the psychological mindset, where you change her mind that is in grief and what everyone thinks of her. A woman who has lost her husband, just loses a partner and does not lose her intelligence, hands, and capacity to work,” said Pastor Dorcas.

She emphasized that a widow needs empowerment and opportunities, not sympathy.

She shared her story, being brought up by a widow, and inspired many widows in the Summit not to give up or lose hope.

“My mother was widowed for 45 years, and I saw the struggles she underwent bringing up eight children. She was, however, not a victim of her circumstances, but engaged in businesses and we became who we are because she did not see herself a victim,” she added.

Under the Office of the Spouse of the Deputy President (OSDP), Pastor Dorcas has widows programs in Nairobi, Kajiado, Migori, Laikipia, Kakamega, Bungoma, TransNzoia, Nandi, Bomet, Kilifi and Nakuru Counties.

The projects include economic empowerment through fish farming, tree nursery establishment, goat keeping, bee keeping, beadwork, agribusiness, dress making, soap and detergent making, and candle manufacturing, and also psychosocial spiritual support to the thousands of widows.

The other pillars in her office are Boy Child, and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) on the foundation of Chaplaincy, Outreach and Family Values.

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