First Lady launches first-of-its kind Widows Association

FIRST LADY Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday launched a first of its kind Widows Association in Mhangura, Doma, which hit the ground running by unveiling an array of life-transforming short courses and projects to empower widows countrywide.

As the patron of the Association, Amai Mnangagwa’s aim is to ensure that through the First Lady’s Widows Association, widows earn income to sustain themselves and their children in a dignified manner.

The Association is a holistic package comprising committees set up in districts that involve everyone to ensure no one and no place is left in efforts to capacitate beneficiaries.

The projects seek to ease the plight of widows who largely wallow in poverty following the death of their spouses, and are mostly taken advantage of by greedy relatives who strip them of assets like houses, farms and cars.

Childless women are worse off as they are mostly sent packing, empty-handed, by their husbands’ relatives, hence the First Lady’s intervention and involvement of the Master of High Court to equip them with knowledge of the inheritance law and their rights.

The Association, which Amai Mnangagwa will launch in all the provinces, will involve lawyers and professional executors to ensure widows are not tricked into marriages that result in them losing properties to their new partners, leaving them and their children stranded.

The life-changing courses and projects, which started in Mashonaland West Province and will be replicated countrywide, include hairdressing, dress-making, detergent making, mushroom production, floor polish making, candle making, project management and business management.

So far, over 2 000 widows drawn from Zvimba, Chegutu, Kariba, Sanyati, Makonde, Hurungwe and Mhondoro-Ngezi have been trained through the association and its partners.

They received certificates from the mother of the nation.

In her remarks at the commissioning of the First Lady’s Widows Association, which was punctuated by song and dance, the First Lady expressed gratitude to the gathering for voting back President Mnangagwa so that she too, continues with her empowerment drive.

“I want to firstly thank you for voting President E.D Mnangagwa back into office in the just ended elections. Today, I am happy with our meeting where we are teaching one another tangible things. I have come to form First Lady’s widows’ association as I work with you in everything. This is a first of its kind to come from the office of the First Lady. 

One of the widows narrates the challenges she is facing with the inheritance of properties and belongings left by her husband due to lack of knowledge during an interactive session on inheritance issues organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Mhangura yesterday

“Madzimai, you lost your spouses and assumed the position of head of households, but God will never give you a situation that you cannot handle.

“This is no longer the time to mourn, but to ask God to give you strength to look after the family. You must be able to teach your daughter Betty to dress and behave well, but you can only do so if you lead by example. 

“I have come to strengthen you and give you dignity through projects. You must occupy your rightful position so that your daughter Betty does not become infamous for doing bad things,” she said to applause.

The First Lady said she formed the association to bridge the gap she had noticed among widows.

“I noticed that as widows you were lagging behind in many aspects so I have come to walk with you and I want to walk with those who are keen and willing to work. The projects I have brought are now your new husbands. Be financially disciplined and do not splash the profits on niceties and expensive hairdos. 

“I also encourage you to work in groups for the success of your projects. You should also form committees in your districts as you run the projects where you will later invite me to come and see your success,” she said.

The First Lady’s Widows Association is not for mourning, but to uplift one another, said Amai Mnangagwa.

“We want to kill the bad names you are called as widows with some being called prostitutes. Our challenges as women are similar but what only differs are days of occurrence. Today it is you becoming a widow and tomorrow it is someone else. I am everyone’s mother and I am not selective since I want to transform all families. 

“I have started the First Lady’s Widows Association here and it’s going to spread to all provinces. I want tangible things to come out of this and I say no to laziness, gossip and thievery. You should be trustworthy when doing your projects as groups. 

“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs will assist us in selling the products we would have made. I have brought along the Master of High Court so that he teaches us the legal provisions so that we become complete women. I will visit all the seven districts here,” she said amid wild cheers.

Master of the High Court, Mr Eldard Mutasa, praised the First Lady for the programme to equip widows with knowledge of the law, especially on inheritance.

Master of the High Court Mr Eldard Mutasa teaches widows on various laws that protect them and their inheritance during an interactive session on inheritance issues organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Mhangura yesterday

“We thank our mother, the First Lady for the programme she has brought to equip you with knowledge of the country’s laws on inheritance. If you lack knowledge you sink. You have been so lucky that an association has been formed which she will supervise. 

“She invited us the Office of Master of High Court so that we teach you what the law says. Amai said widows were being duped following the demise of their spouses. This is a bad thing. When death occurs, the law says you must register with the nearest office of the Master of the High Court within 14 days. 

“You go with the death certificate and marriage certificate if it’s there. If these things are not there, it does not stop you from registering. The death certificate will be needed by the Executor when distributing the inheritance. Registering is for free. Once registered the next step is appointing the executor but be careful that some of the people you choose to be executors are greedy. 

“The law says widows can process inheritance but some relatives trick them saying continue mourning and ana babamudiki nana tete will do the processing. Kwete handizvo, as the widow, be involved in all the processes. Some relatives are breaking the law by distributing things just after burial. You are only allowed to distribute clothes only.

“Even in the event yekuti mudzimai ndiye ashaya, some husbands are stripped property including beds and stoves. Where will the man and his children cook from? Some women are chased and stripped of assets. This is mostly done when you refuse to be taken over by someone else semudzimai wenhaka, but this is against the law. Property grabbing is a crime. Anyone who does this can be prosecuted and jailed for up to two years. At times some women mourn forgetting the future whereupon they are dispossessed of bank cards and cattle records. Let us mourn with hope and open our eyes. 

“If the husband is polygamous, a wife benefits where she was staying. Some senior wives will be staying in the rural areas leaving young wives in the city. When the husband dies, the mainini gets the house so let us be careful in our decision-making. Another important thing is a will. Through Amai’s Association, she will be bringing professional people now and again who will be teaching you about inheritance,” Mr Mutasa said.

There was a question and answer segment where widows sought answers to a variety of questions from the Master of High Court.

“I lost my husband and we had an Isuzu, a house and 14 children. After his death, his relatives took the car and they also wanted to take the house, but I refused. They are prohibiting me from processing the death certificate so that I unlock the funds my husband left. They are fixing me because I refused with the house asi mota yangu vakatotora,” she said, wiping away tears.

In response, Mr Mutasa said: “What they are doing is against the law. Come to our Chinhoyi office and we take it from there. They took the car out of lack of knowledge, cruelty and greed. On the death certificate our office can make you an executor and you can have the death certificate processed.”

Mrs Siyawadyara shared her tale of losing her husband after four years in a childless union.

“His children from an earlier marriage are taking my house and the field. They are harassing me saying I did not have a child with their father hence I should not benefit,” she said.

And Mr Mutasa replied: “There is rule of law in Zimbabwe which should be respected. Also approach our offices, we will help you.”

Widows being taught how to make various types of detergents through an initiative by Angel of Hope Foundation to empower widows during the launch of the Widows Association by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Mhangura yesterday

Mrs Grace Nyikadzino said her husband had divorced his first wife, who later died, before he married her but the children from the first wife were saying the house belonged to their late mother who had an existing marriage certificate and she had to go empty-handed.

Mr Mutasa said the woman’s late husband had a marriage that allowed for one wife and the children were deriving their power from that.

He urged women to first check if the man they tend to marry cancelled their marriage certificate with the first wife before moving in with him.

Mrs Tarisai Mandovha said: “My husband died in 2019 and left me with three kids. When he died, his brothers sold the field saying they wanted to pay off his debts. His mother took the garden saying it’s my son’s strength. I no longer have even anywhere to plant vegetables and how do I sustain the family. Thank you Amai for bringing us knowledge because knowledge is power.”

Chaplain Christine Phiri from the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services said it was critical for widows to live in a dignified manner.

“What is a widow? How does she walk, live and is she bathing or she thinks if she is smart she will be accused of being a husband snatcher? We want to thank Amai for remembering widows because she is saying they are humans too. Our mother is saying stop crying, arise and work for your children madzimai. 

“Wake up and bath like others and use your hands because the time of mourning is over. Be strong and look after the children since you are their keeper. Our mother is saying no to widows who sit behind closed doors singing ‘Munoziva kusasimba kwangu’. Our mother is saying women must work,” she said before bursting into song, “Shanda, shandawe, shanda ushandire mhuri”.

“We reject widows who are infamous for seeking handouts yet they have hands. Being a widow is not a passport to prostitution. Refuse to be treated like a wild mazhanje fruit that is shaken by whoever is passing by. Our mother is saying value your body. She has brought various projects to empower us as widows and we are thankful. 

“I was widowed at 21 years of age but I never looked back because when my husband died, he did not go with my hands and I resolved to work. We were given a good mother who looks after widows and orphans. She embraces everyone and is urging women to arise and work. She is also encouraging us as widows and women as a whole to be prayerful, she is saying use your knees,” she said.

Evangelist Nelly Gwatidzo echoed similar sentiments.

“If as a woman you lose your husband and left with the children, it means the home is still there so gear up to work for the family. Amai has come today to remind us that we are now the fathers as well in the homes. Children look up to you for protection. Our mother is saying as widows we must fight and pray for our children and teach them good manners. 

“Do not let your daughters bring groceries from different men daily thinking they are lucky to be loved by men. It’s not luck because flies hover around rotten meat. But should we let our daughters get into trouble under our watchful eyes because of a quest for sweet things? 

“Our mother has brought projects so that we do not eat freebies like worms. As you mend dresses, make detergents and bake teach your children too and discourage your sons from taking drugs,” she said.

The First Lady provided maize-meal, vegetable combo seeds and traditional grains to everyone who attended.

She also provided lunch for everyone.

Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Marian Chombo and the Member of Parliament, Dr Douglas Mombeshora, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care paid glowing tribute to the First Lady for her well-meaning programmes.

Dr Mombeshora confirmed that a number of widows were seeking help and he was glad the mother of the nation had unveiled projects and an Association for their benefit.

Herald

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