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The Voice of a Tortured Widow

In the video below,33 year old Beatrice recounts the painful treatment that was meted on her when she lost her husband.Like most widows in Cameroon, she was accused for killing her husband and asked to marry her brother-in law or leave her husband`s home.

There are very few villages in Cameroon where widows are not subjected to untold hardship and torture in the name of widowhood rituals.Sleeping on the bare floor,moving bare footed, going for days without food or water,not allowed to take a bath or have a change of cloth,forced to drink water that has been used to wash the corpse,spending the night in the same room with the corpse alone,obliged to wail every 5:30am,placing the hands continuously across the shoulders,forced to dance naked or half naked,forced to clean shave hair with razor.....the list is inexhaustible.

The customary law is still in place in Cameroon making it impossible for these women to seek justice.Even when women are educated there is a tendency for them to give in to such practices due to the belief that failure to do so will lead to a curse befalling them and their children.

Efforts in sensitizing and educating these women need to be intensified.The laws governing Cameroon need to be tailored to suit international human rights precepts.As a nation we cannot continue to allow women who are the backbone of our economy,guarantors of stability both in public and private spheres to be treated with such an alarming degree of disrespect in the name of culture.

The practice is perpetrated by older widows who consider themselves as custodians of tradition.Their argument to any contrary view to this is that this was what our fore fathers use to do so we have to do the same to keep our tradition.The question I always ask myself is why those with such a view don`t move with barks of trees and leaves for covering since our fore fathers did not wear clothes.

Traditions and religions world wide have been diabolically patterned to disempower the woman.In most countries of the world,the life of a woman is a cycle of torture from birth to old age.There is always a traditional practice at every stage of life (childhood,adolescence,marriage,motherhood and old age) where is it culturally correct to endure pain.Sadly in most cases a woman is always behind such practices.This is a reality for the older as well as the younger generation of women.We all need to bring ourselves to book first and examine how we treat our fellow women.When we graduate from mutilating our daughters or torturing or daughter in-laws in the domestic sphere,we enter the public sphere as backbiters and destroyers of one another,there is no specie plagued by the canker worm of envy and strife as women are.We need a change.We as women need to be each others keeper for change to come.

This is the time to rise and say no to pain.The heat against such cultural malfeasances is increasing thanks to platforms like World Pulse.The pot of violence against women has boiled to overflowing and the attention of the cook has been drawn! Solutions are being discussed.There must be an answer

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »


Myrthe's picture

Thank you for sharing

Thank you, Leina, for sharing this. I knew about other societies where widows are discriminated against or have to suffer abuse, but I didn't know anything about these practices in Cameroon.

I think you point out something very important: how it is not uncommon that women themselves play a part in keeping violence against women alive or other practices that discriminate against women or keep women down. Also, I think it's not just important to educate and empower the widows themselves to seek justice and support, but to educate society in general. In your opinion, what could be done to change how society treats widows in Cameroon?

Leina's picture

Dear Myrthe,thank for

Dear Myrthe,thank for reading through this!For the situation of widows to change the customary law has to be revised to suit international human rights standards or abolished.So long as it remains in place,these women will never find justice.This law states that the woman is her husbands property!It condones with levirate marriage,making it impossible for women like Beatrice to have a voice in a court of law.Above all education at all levels remains an unshakeable solution to all forms of violence against women.
Thank You,

weaverheart's picture

Thank you...

Dear Leina,

Thank you very much for this piece. It is so important, as you say, for women to honor and value one another. Until this happens, we cannot protect each other.
Yes, education is the key to unlock the doors into a sustainable and empowered future. This is beyond important.

May we continue to awaken and empower ourselves, and each other. Thank you for being here and for all you are doing for our cause.

Many blessings,


Laura R.

Leina's picture

Hello Laura, I am very

Hello Laura,
I am very grateful to get your reaction on this!It is quite encouraging.You have just proven your honor and value for your fellow women by reading and commenting on this!

Y's picture

Women are seen as producing

Women are seen as producing more life for which others have to care. This is based on lack of DNA proof of paternity.

The time is now to assert that children are not to produce love or care for their parents. The old system harms women and men, but mostly children. We must promote conception control until all prospective parents are able to take care of themselves, with resources (physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, communal) left over to take care of others.

Education about sexual feelings, conception, childbirth, and childcare, and access to preventive measures regarding conception are our only hope of changing the fates of parents and their children.


KathyG's picture

So much loss

It seems almost unbearable what some widows have to go through, and the cynic in me almost wonders if that is the plan. Make losing a husband so unbearable that there is no reason to go on.

The widow has lost hopefully good things, such as a loved one, a partner, a friend, a breadwinner. But then on top of it they face the potential loss of their family, their home, their ability to take care of themselves and their children. Add the dis-empowerment, the beating down of ones sense of self. And to think that widows, themselves keep this tradition alive is beyond believe. There must be other underlying motivations.

Through World Pulse I hope we can help to share knowledge and education to envelope these widows with the support and caring they need in these difficult times.

Thank you for writing about such a difficult topic.

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