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Cameroon Takes Strides to Empower Widows, Eliminate Traditional Rituals

Widows in Cameroon say that in addition to dealing with the grief of losing their partners, they must also endure inhumane treatment from in-laws in a series of rituals after the death of a husband. The government and nongovernmental organizations are expanding efforts to address widows’ rights in light of International Widows’ Day, commemorated for the first time this year.
DOUALA, CAMEROON – Margeret Tarla, a mother of four, says her father married her off to his friend before she turned 16. She became the second of the man’s five wives.

Tarla, who lives in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city and the capital of Littoral province, became a widow almost a year ago. She says that after her husband died, she and the other wives were forced to undergo inhumane traditional widowhood rites in the husband’s village.

The wives had to sit on dried plantain leaves for three days and could only eat food served on leaves by a virgin. After three days on the floor, they had to bathe with a concoction of water and other substances, which, according to their husband’s tribe, cleansed them from the bad luck accrued by their intimate relations with their husband. They also had to shave their heads, arms and private parts.

“We go to the stream with a basket,” Tarla says, describing another ritual. “And, after a bath, any widow who does not pass out urine is considered to have a hand in her husband’s death!”

On their way back from the stream, they had to cut down bamboo sticks to symbolize the food they were expected to bring home with them. They were not allowed to look behind them.

“The next day, we move round the market square in line, according to our position in the polygamous marriage,” she says.

Widows here also have to wear a black or white sackcloth for the traditional year of mourning, but Tarla says this is not considered as important as the other rites they went through.

Tarla says the rites were inhumane.

“The rites are so inhumane, such that one would not want her daughter to marry into a tribe with such customs,” she says.
Read more: http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/global-news/africa/cameroon/cameroon-takes-strides-empower-widows-eliminate-traditional-rituals#ixzz1UhWD7CDx

Cameroon Takes Strides to Empower Widows, Eliminate Traditional Rituals

Widows in Cameroon say that in addition to dealing with the grief of losing their partners, they must also endure inhumane treatment from in-laws in a series of rituals after the death of a husband. The government and nongovernmental organizations are expanding efforts to address widows’ rights in light of International Widows’ Day, commemorated for the first time this year.

DOUALA, CAMEROON – Margeret Tarla, a mother of four, says her father married her off to his friend before she turned 16. She became the second of the man’s five wives.


Tarla, who lives in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city and the capital of Littoral province, became a widow almost a year ago. She says that after her husband died, she and the other wives were forced to undergo inhumane traditional widowhood rites in the husband’s village.


The wives had to sit on dried plantain leaves for three days and could only eat food served on leaves by a virgin. After three days on the floor, they had to bathe with a concoction of water and other substances, which, according to their husband’s tribe, cleansed them from the bad luck accrued by their intimate relations with their husband. They also had to shave their heads, arms and private parts.


“We go to the stream with a basket,” Tarla says, describing another ritual. “And, after a bath, any widow who does not pass out urine is considered to have a hand in her husband’s death!”


On their way back from the stream, they had to cut down bamboo sticks to symbolize the food they were expected to bring home with them. They were not allowed to look behind them.


“The next day, we move round the market square in line, according to our position in the polygamous marriage,” she says.


Widows here also have to wear a black or white sackcloth for the traditional year of mourning, but Tarla says this is not considered as important as the other rites they went through.


Tarla says the rites were inhumane.


“The rites are so inhumane, such that one would not want her daughter to marry into a tribe with such customs,” she says.



Read more: http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/global-news/africa/cameroon/cameroon-takes-strides-empower-widows-eliminate-traditional-rituals#ixzz1UhWD7CDx

Filed under Camaroon Gender Justice Culture Tradition Widows Ritual

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