Amaka Amadi has spiky white streaks in her hair, silver rings on her fingers, and
wraparound Gucci sunglasses. All these make her a pretty typical 35 year-old lady, but not all
that typical of her age and identity, or any sign that shows that she walks through the valley of
humiliation. Amaka is a widow who has been egged on in the most graphic and indelible way
by a community service project called “widows with life “by a group of youths to which I belong
and founded. The first edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica informed its readership that death
"can only be conjectured" (1973, v. 5, p. 526). Death, although an ultimate and inevitable
unpleasant end that always leaves a sour taste in the life of the bereaved, it is particularly most
challenging for women. The notion that women who lose their husbands to death should “stop”
existing in society negates women’s right in its simplest and purest sense. This perception is
fastidiously embraced by some cultures. Little did I know the quest to ease the pains of this
group of persons, to give them a face and a voice in society, that I consider my most heroic act
would change my life.
The journey to this act began back in 2005, during my youth service days. The National
Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was part of the requirement established by the Federal
Government of Nigeria for the completion of a mandatory one year program, which was aimed
at having fresh graduates serve the country through applying knowledge gained at the university
to the society. It was an act of community service. The responsibility of finding a project, not just
any project but, one that will stand out and guarantee my group “star honors” became my
obsession. The searches for a project led us to examine issues of deprived rights within society,
since a requisite of the project was to effect society at large. A consensus was reached easily
about widows, given that the usual spot where we met called “Cool-Shack” had been closed
down for a while because Amaka, the lady who owned and ran the spot, had been bereaved
and taken advantage of by her in-laws who had taken away ownership of the spot, house, cars,
and children, accusing her of killing her husband and gripping her to take an oath of innocence
which involved drinking the bath water used for washing her husband’s dead-body.
The urge to help Amaka became my personal preoccupation, beside the fact that her
plight would make a good theme for my group’s project. I was most sympathetic because, as a
woman, her plight could have easily been mine. To convince my group to buy the idea, I first
had to research the enormity of her problem and to see if her case was peculiar to her or a
common denominator among other women. To my dismay, it was rather a common problem.
Soon after my research, it was easy to get the support and cooperation of the group; then came
the question, what do we do to make an indelible mark?
Considering the fact that we were all graduates with different skill sets, we harnessed
our skills into cell functions to tackle each fraction of the problems. For instance, the lawyers
amongst us offered free legal services; the psychologists offered counseling services, while
others offered their friendship to the women. Next and most importantly, to give a bite to our
course, we needed financial resources to back our work and to create awareness about these
ladies. My skill as a communication specialist came in handy in organizing, sourcing,
generating, and coordinating ideas that turned in cash donations and policy supports. Months
afterwards, we came up with an idea to organize a fund raising dance drama. This was because
it was intended to be entertaining based on African rituals. Secondly, it would give everyone,
especially the widows, an opportunity to have fun. Furthermore, we could tell the story of the
widows’ plight effectively through this dance drama format.
On the whole, we discovered that the dark room of life after the death of a loved one was
not merely as ostensible as just missing the companionship of the person. Neither can offering
some sort of restitution to the bereaved be an adequate replacement or placebo. Nevertheless,
just letting the bereaved know, they had a place in society without derogation was hopeful for
their continuous existence. This goes to conjure that death “can only be conjectured".
In conclusion, the pleasure I personally gained from the successful organization of this
project could only be compared to a little degree of pleasure derived from freshly baked
chocolate cake, with warm syrup running down its side and a strawberry on top. Furthermore,
the trill of the performances, the hope, joy and new opportunities it gave to the widows, coupled
with the funds gotten, were enough to intoxicate and put a chip on my shoulders for the rest of
my life, not to mention the lessons I learnt on personal responsibility and community service.