For years, the rights of women to own property have always been violated, starting from their immediate family, which is a reflection of the larger society. In this report, CHIKA MEFOR-NWACHUKWU reports on how women have been denied this right and how it has impacted negatively on their wellbeing.
“A woman does not stay around when issues of land are being discussed,” is a popular aphorism in Igboland.
She is expected to sit docile in a corner when issues that border on land matters are being discussed, and is only expected to ask questions for clarification on boundaries as the only right bequeathed to her is usually to cultivate the land.
This paints a vivid picture of the circumstance in which most women in the southeast, whether single or married, find themselves.
In most cases, the women have access to the lands that belong to their male family members – father, brother or husband.
However, the death of a husband or divorce often results in the woman’s loss of access to the land, except if she has male children.
This clause also extends to other properties in the family, which are mostly inherited by male persons.
Joy Dike’s case is one that clearly depicts this trend of women’s non-inheritance and non-ownership of lands in the southeastern part of Nigeria.
The woman, who is a native of Umudioka in the Njikoka Local Government area of Anambra State, lost her husband, Gabriel in 2020, when she was just three weeks pregnant with her third child.
The 25-year-old, mother of three, was yet to come to terms with the death of her husband when her brother-in-law, backed by her mother-in-law, emptied her husband’s account and took over all his properties.
“They said that they opened an account for my children and I am not even a signatory to the account. I have been the one taking of my children. I need to take care of my children so that wherever my husband is, he will be happy that I fought for his children’s rights,” Joy lamented.
The young widow, who struggles to survive with the pittance made daily from her petty trade at the Afor-Igwe Market in Umudioka, said she took the matter to her husband’s kinsmen with hopes that it would be resolved amicably and quickly so that she can be able to take care of her children, but nothing has been done.
And just like Joy, Njideka Onuko’s challenges started immediately she lost her husband, Chinweze in 2019.