Culture is said to be a vehicle for national development. In this sense, it becomes a tool that could be exploited for any country’s development. But is that always the case that culture is a vehicle and a tool for national development? The answer is obviously “NO”. There are certain negative practices which are dehumanizing and infringe on the fundamental human rights of people who become victims, and even the constitution of Ghana and international conventions have totally condemned such barbaric acts.
Widowhood can be defined as the status of an individual who was legally married to who subsequently died. In the Ghanaian community there is a kind of in-balance in the performance of widowhood rites. The men enjoy more freedom in the performing of the rites than women. If a man refuses to perform the rite there is no public outcry but if a woman refuses, she is blended with all sorts of taunting and considered as having a hand in the death of her husband.
Some of the practices widow are meant to pass through on the loose of the husband are ,
Shaving of the hair on the head , drinking of remains of bath water used to wash the husbands corpses mourn her husband’s death for about three to twelve months depending on the ethnic group, right of inheritance , women do not have the right to inherit land or property , widows are not allowed to bathe, clean her surroundings during mourning period , on rare cases once bath a day.
After their husband’s death many women suffer abuse and exploitation by family members, often about property and land. Often these women lose their social status and are excluded from social life. Widows are often evicted from their homes and physically abuse, some even killed even by members of their own family. Widows with children often have to withdraw their children from schools and to rely on their labor. The poverty of often is increased by illiteracy and a lack of education. Their access to income generating opportunities in therefore severely restricted. Furthermore cultural labor’s negative stereotyping, seclusion, mourning dress codes and the burden of childcare may impede younger widows from participation in projects or working in the public domain. In many countries ways that widows cope with this situation include; putting children into child labor, begging, being exploited in jobs and eventually rework.
The plight of widows in Ghana and other parts of Africa have shown that a lot remains to be done to address the needs of several categories of women in Africa. The call for a more proactive approach in this direction is absolutely urgent when one considers the fact that Ghana has been much more progress in the protection of widows than many other African countries. The most dehumanizing widowhood rites occur as a result of the inequalities between men and women.
To enable any nation make any progress in promoting the human rights of widows, there is a need for education. The process of legal literacy aims at creating awareness through human rights education among different stakeholders in the society. Widows are humans and as such they need a fair treatment from their spouse relatives and members of the community; these rites which are considered appropriate by the culture are most of the time detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the widows and their offspring, therefore the rites to a large extent need to be dropped to enable women to live normally despite the exit of their husbands.
Conclusively, people are gradually gaining awareness of the harmful effects of harmful widowhood practices in
our communities. Some African nations have already exacted law prohibiting harmful widowhood practices. The act spells out different situation whereby people can be convicted when they disobey the law. The content of the law should be publicized, so that people will be aware of their rights and duties under the law. The government should set machinery in motion to implement the law.