Danke fights for the rights and dignity of widows

Today was International Widows Day
Today was International Widows Day
Image: federicofoto/123rf

Dr Sizakele Danke, a senior lecturer in the Unisa Education Department, has made it her mission to help widows who face victimisation. .

Danke, who is also a leading researcher in widowhood issues, was speaking at a widowhood indaba roundtable on International Widows Day, which looks at promoting the rights of vulnerable women who have lost their partners.

“When I went through mourning, I experienced bullying and learned how people you trust can turn against you,” said Danke. 

Danke’s research found that widows re often afraid of speaking out about the bullying and abuse because they feared embarrassment and losing their dignity. 

“When you are a widow, you can lose your social standing and your identity. Some widows are accused of killing their husbands. They are also perceived to have bad luck and can be discriminated against,” said Danke. 

Danke said she had had women who told her they had to fight for their innocence in court during their mourning period and others were told to take a back seat in their church and other social activities. 

She said although some of these stories appeared in the media, such as Fikile Mlaba who refused to be forced to wear mourning attire by her village, the ‘rakgadi’ who called out her brother’s wife for allegedly cheating on him on live television and even HHP’s widow Lerato Sengadi, who had to go to court to prove she was married to the late rapper, many women’s stories remained untold. 

“Some women are even told to marry their late husband’s brother,” she said.

“Other women have moveable assets such as TVs and cars stolen while they are sitting on the mattress mourning. Other women are confronted by their husbands’ illegitimate children and these children are assisted by the in-laws.”

Customary Law expert McDonald Rammala said a legitimate last will and testament would go a long way in stopping infighting after a death.

“It is important for people to know that a last wish and last instructions do not constitute  a will.”

He said video and oral recordings and messages in form of smses were not valid. 

Rammala added that a will had to be be written and signed by two witnesses who are not inheritors and in the presence of a commissioner of oaths. 

Gender Links Services Associate Kevin Chiramba said children of widowed women were often left out of educational and economic opportunities. 

He said it was possible that more women had now been widowed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has not improved since the onset. The economic situation of widows has not been spared, in fact it has been worsened. It is highly likely that the number of widows has increased in the country. Some women have been widowed during this time as their husbands and partners succumbed to Covid-19.

"As the nation rolls out Covid-19 vaccines it’s important to ensure the plight of widows and ensure that they have equal access to vaccines,” said Chiramba. 


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