Wednesday is a day of prayer for vulnerable people at the church of Saint Pierre in Pointe-Noire, Congo. Maryse, like most of the women who come here to pray, is in a difficult situation.
She’s accused of witchcraft by her in-laws, after she lost everything following her husband’s death.
This is not an isolated case. It is a systemic problem most widows face in Congo.
We are in a country where the strength of customs is particularly strong.
In the age of social networks, Maryse has enjoyed the sympathy of many, including authorities who have tackled her problem head-on. But in Congolese culture, it is forbidden for the widow to speak in public.
“When we were told of her husband’s death, we picked her up and took her to their house. An hour and a half or two hours later, she was thrown out by her in-laws who said she was not allowed to stay there. I would like to point out that, when the husband was still in the hospital, his family had come to change the locks of the house, already it was a way of putting her out and then it was the family that suffered a lot, we only did our job of taking care of it”, said President of the Solidarity for Social Works, Bernadette Bephangayahou.
Our Nayah Kartum Baba Gomo Gomo reports that since then, the homeless woman has been the responsibility of the association, which has been negotiating for her rehabilitation.
It’s a lost battle in a country where it is uncommon to see families trample on the last wishes of a deceased, often to the detriment of the widow and children.
“ The law has provided everything. Now what is happening is the difficulty of applying the law externally. This application poses a problem because we are in a country where the strength of customs is particularly strong and we sometimes have the impression that customs prevail over law”, said Magistrate Jessica Valerie Mamoni Ngoma.
Civil society groups say in the Republic of Congo, and even in other countries of Bantu culture, the fight for widows’ rights remains a challenge.
But initiatives to support widows are emerging.