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By: Selma Taapopi 

A somber atmosphere infused the United Nations House in Windhoek today as local widows congregated in recognition of World Widows Day.    

The congregants listened in sadness to a message by Collen Ndjai,  a son of a late widow as he shared the brutal story of how his mother and family were ill-treated after the passing of her husband, who was his step father.  

The local observance was organized by the Kuhanga Widows Association of Namibia and held under the theme ‘Accelerating the Achievement of Gender Equality with emphasis on strengthening land and property rights’.   

With tears in his eyes, Ndjai narrated the difficult journey from when his stepfather passed on, when his mother was immediately chased out of her marital home she had shared with her husband for over 20 years.  

Ndjai shared that his mother did not receive any benefits after the funeral of his stepfather as the family allegedly sold and stole all properties.   

He said that the Kuhanga Widows Association of Namibia was his mother’s only refuge after the ordeal, as all her family members turned their backs on his mother who was also battling cancer and depression from the passing of her husband.   

“My father’s body did not even arrive at the mortuary and they were waiting for the police, but the police did not come. The family chased my mother out of the house.  

This paper is my mother’s marriage certificate and I always walk with it, and I wish the traditional authorities would hear this today, they have failed us.  

The police had to come into our house and stay there, like it was a protocol house. They used to sleep at our house, and they would have shifts at our house. I would put in leave and come stay next to my mother.  

I am telling you my mother is now six feet in the ground, she did not taste any fruit immediately after her husband died, they sold everything, they stole everything, they were brutal when we went there, there was nothing” an emotional Ndjai shared. 

UN Resident coordinator Hopolang Phororo shared her own relatable experience to that of Ndjai and the other widows in attendance.  

She noted that widows ended up being the most disadvantaged particularly in the context of gender equality, further underscoring the importance of parents having wills in place and talking about death with children, while they are still alive.   

“We had spoken about death all the time as a family and that is one thing that I really appreciated about the family.  

I think it is one thing in our African society which we need to talk more about, we don’t talk about death and as a result, husbands and fathers don’t write wills, and when they don’t before they pass, this is when the relatives come in, not to say that in all cases the will is right, but it’s important to have a will” Phororo remarked. 

Deputy Minister of Gender Equality and child welfare Bernadette Jagger in her keynote remarks cited that before independence, Namibia was characterised by a history of discriminatory practices that mostly affected women and children.  

She highlighted that during this period most women had neither access nor rights over land. 

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