Inheritance a major challenge, say widows as they launch the Mombasa Widows Chapter

Women gather during the launch of the Mombasa Widows Chapter./COURTESY

Inheritance and succession are among the major challenges being faced by widows in Mombasa.

Speaking during the Launch of the Adonai Widows Mombasa Chapter, widows rights’ ambassador Dianah Kamande said widows from different parts of the country face different challenges and the one being experienced at the coast is inheritance and succession.

“Due to early marriages and banditry, we find that in some other counties, we have very young widows, some in their teens. So we need to find a way to help widows, just like we have a Persons With Disabilities Council, we should also have a Widows Council that will take care of widows,” said Dianah.

Dianah, the Founder of the Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization encouraged widows to join groups saying groups will not only help widows financially but also socially and mentally.

“It is paramount that widows join different groups or organizations. Even if not for funding, a group is a social structure in itself that widows can get people to lean on. When it comes to funding, especially accessing funds from the state, the government empowers people in groups, not individuals,” said Dianah.

She said they are working on a policy that will fight for widows’ rights.

“We know that we have approximately more than four million widows nationwide and that number should not be ignored. That is a number that can inform policy. We have already submitted the policy we are working on to the Gender Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa and we have been going around the counties discussing it and how it can be implemented in counties,” said Dianah Kamande.

“What we have considered in the policy are issues to do with pension, widows right to remarriage without creating any challenges or difficulties for the children in accessing their late father’s wealth and other things,” she added.

Mombasa Member of County Assembly Milka Moraa said she will advocate for the policy when it gets to the County Assembly. Moraa said widows are looked down on in society and this had to change.

“Widows go through a lot and most of the time are not taken seriously, they are deemed as outcasts by society. If a widow does not have a strong support system they may even fall into depression. That is why I am in support of this policy,” said Moraa.

“When we are united, we will be heard. We have a tool and that is our vote. We will mobilize widows nationwide and the person that will stand with widows is the one we will vote for come electioneering period,” she added.

Also at the launch was Letitia Mwavishi from FIDA-Kenya who stressed the importance of widows knowing their rights.

She said the Federation of Women Lawyers has been sensitizing widows on their rights and the process to follow when it comes to court cases.

“As FIDA we give them legal advice and tell them what is required of them so that when they go to court they get the help they need. We also represent them in court,” she said.

According to Letitia, most widows lack information and it is imperative that information trickles down to the grassroots level so that widows are not duped into giving out their titles, husband’s death certificate, or other important documents.

“Most of the time when we go to the community forums we find that most widows do not know their rights and even those who do have no idea where to start from, making them vulnerable to fall into the hands of conmen,” said Mwavishi.

Mwavishi also encouraged widows not to hide their late husbands’ property or start working on the property before getting permission from the court.

“When one’s husband dies, the best thing to do is head to court to settle the property so that you do not start working on them illegally. Going to court with the necessary documents will also help in the transfer of that property, especially if the husband did not leave behind a will, then this will help in the prevention of the property from being grabbed by even relatives. The court will also consider the children left behind by the deceased,” she said.

Also at the launch were Nominated Senator Miraj Abdillahi and Youth Fund Chair Fatma Barayan who sensitized the widows on the different government programs that widows can access to get financial aid.

“We have talked about the Hustler Fund, Women In Blue Economy, Women Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund and even the National Government Affirmative Action Fund. These are all programs that widows can apply for funds through their different groups,” said Nominated Senator Miraj Abdillahi.

“We should make good use of these funding programs, do not be afraid to apply. They are all funds to help women,” said Youth Fund Chair Fatma Barayan.

Barayan, an Advocate, also advised widows against agreeing to take any form of compensation or sign any official documents without consulting their lawyers. Her sentiments were supported by Senator Miraj.

“I am grateful that in this launch we have had organizations like FIDA and the Office of the Ombudsman who have been giving the widows legal aid on legal matters that have been challenging them,” said Miraj.

“Now what we have to do is train them on how to apply for funds and grants to build them financially,” she added.

Miraj also spoke of the Mama Haki Foundation which is currently sponsoring 40 students through secondary school, saying that the foundation will be taking in 40 more students who will be supported from form one until they finish their high school education.

“We will have volunteers who will be giving out the application forms in the grassroots to help out needy students. I am doing this because I also received help growing up and I want these children to reach where I myself could not because of lack of resources,” she said.

The launch of the Mombasa Widows Chapter was attended by more than 700 widows from across the county with all speaking in one voice for the right of a widow.

“I am happy that widows are finally coming together, they taking their space as widows because the issues they face are totally different from other women. What I want to remind the whole world is that ‘the rights of a widow are the real human rights’,” said Coast Region Widows Patron Millicent Atieno.

“What I have witnessed and even experienced is that widows lack a lot of information and the role we have been playing since 2013 is ensuring that widows know that human rights is a widow’s right. We encourage them to come together so that the government recognizes widows,” said Prudence Kai, Coast Region Widows Leader.

“We are sensitizing our widows to accept themselves and join different groups and speak in unity. The society should also embrace widows because when a widow is empowered they can do great things,” added Prudence.

Others at the launch were Eisha Mohammed from the Office of the Ombudsman, Flora Ali, the Widows Co-ordinator Taita Taveta County, and Elizabeth from Sauti ya Wanawake Pwani.