A women's group in Homa Bay, eastern Kenya is helping to overturn the tradition of ‘wife inheritance’, in which a brother or relative of the dead husband ‘inherits’ the widow.
The custom which is believed to contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS is deep-rooted in Luo culture. Widows who refuse to accept the custom are often ostracized and become destitute while rich widows run the risk of being exploited by their new husbands and then abandoned when the money runs out or they fall ill.
But the Wiga women’s group has condemned the custom and with Plan’s help has pooled resources to set up a farm where they run income-generating projects for widows.
After receiving training from Plan in management and investment, the group opened a bank account and won contracts to provide local firms with farm produce.
Today the women collectively own 15 cows and 45 goats, and cultivate more than 40 hectares of fruits, vegetables, maize, beans and soya. The group’s Chair Joyce Olumbe said: “We had a good harvest last year our stores are full of bags of groundnuts, watermelons, beans, onions and other high-value foods.”
Not just women benefit from the group’s activities. More than 90 orphans in the village are also being supported, while 20 men have joined the group, including Omolo, who was tricked into inheriting a widow who had HIV. Omolo, 35, said: “I didn’t know she had HIV. I tested positive and was devastated but Wiga group accepted me.” The Bila (Luo parliament) has also added its support to ending the custom.