Notes to broadcasters
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This radio drama illustrates some of the important concerns that have arisen with the increasing number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, and the problems faced by widows who try to claim their rights to property and inheritance. In particular, it discusses the custom of widow inheritance. It is important to do research about local laws, policies and customs that deal with widow inheritance before you adapt this program or prepare your own broadcasts on this topic. Make sure that your information is up-to-date and relevant for your audience.
Consider the following program ideas when discussing women’s rights and inheritance laws:
- Invite women to participate in a panel discussion about local wife inheritance policies and their effect on women and the community.
- Invite a lawyer to discuss how to make a will; if possible, take questions from the audience.
Woman farmer, in her early 20s; her husband is dying of HIV/AIDS
Widow, in her mid-30s
INTRODUCE THEME MUSIC AND FADE OUT (10 seconds)
It is sad when someone dies of HIV/AIDS. And it becomes even more tragic when a widow and her family are mistreated after a husband’s death. This story demonstrates the problems with wife inheritance. It begins when Cheri, a woman whose husband is dying of HIV/AIDS, comes to her friend Nakudi for advice.
I don’t know what to do Nakudi. Ben is not even gone yet and already his brother Peter says he wants to inherit me. Peter already has a wife. I don’t want to be his wife …(starts to cry)
Cheri, my friend, I also know about these troubles. I lived through them when my husband died.
But you still have your house, and land…and your independence. How did you manage?
I talked to my husband about my concerns. He and I were always very close. But we did not have good relations with his family, and I feared the worst upon his death. You should talk to Ben. If you like, I can go with you.
But Nakudi, I feel so helpless with Ben so sick. It is hard enough to care for him, do the weeding and tilling, and housework, and take care of my girls. I am so tired. Our crops are suffering because we can’t keep up with the work.
You poor girl! Well, let’s talk to Ben. You must make things happen.
I understand that. But I can help you, and I think you are strong enough to do this.
FADE IN MUSIC QUIETLY AND HOLD UNDER NARRATOR
The customary laws that allow in-laws to inherit the deceased man’s property, and sometimes his wife, were intended to protect widows and their families from poverty and mistreatment, but those laws are sometimes abused.
In our story, Cheri is determined not to be inherited by her brother-in-law. She talks to her husband Ben. Ben understands her need for financial security and independence upon his death. He agrees to sign a will giving the property, including all livestock, to Cheri. Ben asks one of his uncles to witness the will. Cheri’s sister and the village chief also witness the will. This is important because Cheri will need the support of the community to enforce her rights.
Several months later, after Ben’s death, Nakudi visits Cheri. Cheri lives with her children in her matrimonial home.
SOUNDS OF ANIMALS AND OTHER VILLAGE NOISES IN BACKGROUND
SOUND OF KNOCKING
Nakudi – it’s you! Please come in. You are very welcome here. Can I get you a cup of tea?
And later, after tea, I will take you outside and show you something. I have a new small business. I am keeping bees! My neighbour showed me how to get started, and believe it or not, my brother-in-law Peter is helping me, for a share of the profits. I sell honey and beeswax at the market. And, I still have a cow, a few goats and chickens. I am able to feed my family well.
: You have made wise decisions, dear.
And that’s not all. I have just begun a job as a seamstress. We make uniforms and dresses. I can make clothes for my girls, too. I thank God that I talked to Ben and he helped me arrange for my life after his death. In his will he specified that I should stay here in our matrimonial home. And I wouldn’t have been able to do it without your support and advice.
You are stronger than you thought. Here, I brought you some of my famous honey cake.
Thank you so much. Let’s have tea and talk some more.
Widows like Cheri can make choices about how to live their lives after their husband’s death. Sometimes the hardest part is explaining the situation to in-laws. Everyone must remember that sharing is at the heart of inheritance laws. Also, wife inheritance customs, especially when sexual relations are involved, can contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Contributed by Belinda Bruce, Vancouver, Canada.
Reviewed by Dr Gladys Mutangadura, Postdoctoral Fellow, Sociology Department, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
“Women – Vulnerable but vital campaigners against AIDS,” Ofeibea Quist-Arcon, Senegal, 2001.
“Sustainable agriculture/rural development and vulnerability to the AIDS epidemic,” Daphne Topouzis and Jacques du Guerny, FAO and UNAIDS Joint Publications, 1999.
“Empowering widows in development – Uganda, Zimbabwe, 1999.
“Wife inheritance spurs AIDS rise in Kenya,” Stephen Buckley, Washington Post Foreign Service, 1997.
“COLUMN ONE: Kenyan widows’ new fear,” Ann M. Simmons, Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, February 25, 1998.
“Theme: Legal rights: property and inheritance rights for women,” 1999.
“AIDS: The agony of Africa: Part 5: Death and the Second Sex,” Mark Schoofs, The Village Voice, Dec. 1-7, 1999.
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