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NGO And Chiefs Change Debasing Tradition

2009-10-21 16:46:05
This article has been read 803 times.

For the first time in the history of Pusunamogo, in the Talense Nabdam District, custodians of the tradition have agreed to modify those aspects which debased the dignity of women.

Some of the traditional practices which were prevalent in the Builsa and Talensi Nabdam area included pouring of libation and performing sacrifices of blood on the head of the widow and bathing them naked in the full glare of the public during the last funeral rites of their husbands.

At a media sensitization meeting in the district, Mr.Bukari Issaku, Team Leader of The Community Development and Advocacy Centre (CODAC), a Non-Governmental Organization working for the empowerment of women, said that this practice was a long standing tradition which has humiliated the dignity of women in the district for well over a century.

According to him, CODAC became aware of the plight of the women, both young and old, when a baseline survey was conducted into the cultural practices of four communities in the Upper East Region. An official of the organization who was present at one of the funeral ceremonies said that widows went through the double agony of mourning their dead husbands and that of subjection to very dehumanizing rituals.

Giving an account of the event, he explained that in the full glare of mourners, a young widow of about thirty five years escorted by three elderly ladies appeared from the main gate of the house virtually naked save only by a handful of fresh leaves covering her womanhood from a shrub nearby. She was solemnly led to a pot of hot water which stood on a tripod constructed from stones. While in a sitting position a calabash of flour water was spilled on her head amidst some incantations intelligible only by the custodians of the tradition. As if that was not enough, a fowl's throat was gutted and its blood made to ooze profusely on the head of the widow and covering her entire face. The official said he could read from the faces of the indigenes that the woman was being applauded ironically, for an act of bravery and love for her deceased husband.

Mr. Issaku explained that when his organization began the program to end the practice, they were met with opposition from the women, the victims of the tradition. They, however, did not blame the women for resisting the discontinuation of such a bizarre tradition. The older women thought it was part of the nuances of marriage, without which the soul of the deceased husband will be restless in the land of the dead and any attempt to change the culture was an infringement which would be fiercely resisted. The young ladies in the district, on the other hand, were of the view that the practice did not take their dignity into consideration and should therefore be annulled. It was knowledge of the culture of the tradition coupled with patience of members of his team that paid off in the end.

None the less, CODAC appreciates the power and roles of traditional leaders, especially the chiefs and elders of the affected communities on the success of social change programs. In this regard the Team organized series of meetings with traditional leaders and women where participants freely discussed the pros and cons of the culture in the light of global evolutionary changes in human rights.

Thank God, the efforts yielded positive results. Today communities in which CODAC is working have agreed to a lot of changes in the practice. For instance, they agreed to now pour libation on a stone symbolizing the head of the widow and not directly on her head. In communities where widows are bathed naked some changes have also been adopted. Now widows will be allowed to cover themselves at least from the torso to the thighs. "Isn't that wonderful,? asked the Team leader".

Mr. Bukari said that there is still much to be done since there are still many communities indulging in the practice and so plans were underway to launch a sweeping program to ensure a holistic solution to the menace.

This effort by the CSO is commendable not only for its human's rights dimension but for the fact that it has defused the notion that traditions die hard or can hardly be changed.


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