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Bill Proposing Five Months Mourning Period for Widowhood Scales Second Reading

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed for second reading a bill Bill for an Act to provide for the implementation of a Widowhood Leave Bill in Nigeria.

The bill titled “Widowhood leave bill, 2023 was sponsored by Hon. Said Musa Abdullahi,  (Bida/gbako/katcha federal constituency of Niger State).

Leading the debate on the bill,  Abdullahi said that by introducing Widowhood Leave, it acknowledges the unique challenges faced by widows and widowers and provide them with the necessary time and space to grieve, seek counseling, and adjust to the new realities, adding that the support can significantly contribute to their emotional healing and overall resilience.

He also explained that it allows widows to focus on caring for their children and other family members who may be dependent on them during this challenging time.

He said it also allows widows to fulfill some religious and cultural obligations. For example, a Muslim widow is expected to perform iddah (waiting period) for a period of four months and ten days. During this period, she would not be expected to attend to any function outside her home and she is not required to interface with any man that is not her immediate relation.

“You will recall that this Bill was presented and scaled first reading on the floor of this hallowed Chamber on July 27th, 2023.

According to him,  widows and widowers in Nigeria face numerous challenges following the loss of their spouses. They are often left to single-handedly care for their children and attend to pressing family matters.

“This crucial piece of legislation aims to address the pressing issue of supporting individuals who have lost their spouses, helping them navigate the challenging period of widowhood.

“This Bill is divided into five clauses. The first clause specified the period of leave that is formally grantable to a widow and widower with full entitlement to their pays. The second clause defines the persons who are eligible for the leave and the third clause states the punishment for the violation of the Bill.

Meanwhile, the fourth clause provides for the interpretation of the terms “widow” and “widower”

“Widowhood legislation has been enacted in many countries around the world, for instance, widows are entitled to 15 days of paid leave in India, while widows are entitled to 60 days of leave with pay in Philippines.

“It is important to recognize that the Nigerian Labour Act (2004) does not explicitly provide for any form of leaves that covers widowhood leave warranting a much-needed review. However, despite this lacuna in the law, organizations around the country make provision for bereavement leave, a time off work given to employees when faced with the death of spouses.

“In fact, some organizations go a step further to offer some form of financial support formally and informally.

Research findings have shown that in Nigeria, public sector organizations grant Bereavement Leave for fourteen (14) days. This is no doubt derived from the Public Sector Rules which state in clause 100230 that “An officer may be allowed special leave from duty on full pay on compassionate ground for a period up to two weeks for the burial of spouse/child/parents/parents of spouse”.

“Considering that in countries like Australia and Brazil, Bereavement Leave is typically two (2) days, and in countries like Canada, France, Spain, and the US, it is usually three (3) days. Therefore, one may say the fourteen (14) days prescribed by Public Sector Rules is sufficient but when one looks at the prevalent cultural and religious practices of Nigeria, it seems inadequate. It is always necessary that an organization looks at the cultural context as the way people mourn is deeply rooted in culture.

“In Eastern Nigeria, for instance, the burial of the deceased usually takes place after a few weeks or months (depending on the family) and the mourning period for a widow in modern times is three (3) months even though traditionally it is up to a year. In Islam, while mourning is usually three (3) days, the waiting period for a widow is up to four (4) months.

“During this period, the bereaved spouse receives visitors for at least a month. Therefore, with our culture in view, giving a widower thirty (30) days and a widow five (5) months of Widowhood Leave for the death of a spouse may be reasonable.

“Widowhood Leave is a demonstration of a commitment to supporting employees during times of personal crisis. By providing this benefit, employers can foster a positive work culture, enhance employee loyalty, and improve overall workplace morale.

It ensures that individuals have the opportunity to address any financial matters, such as accessing insurance benefits, updating legal documents, and managing household finances etc.

“In conclusion, the consideration of a Widowhood Leave Bida is a crucial step towards providing support, compassion, and assistance to individuals traversing the challenging journey of widowhood.

“By supporting this legislation, we demonstrate our commitment to promoting emotional well-being, financial stability, workplace productivity, and religious obligations. In addition, this legislation would serve as a beacon of support, offering widows the opportunity to heal, seek counseling if needed, and rebuild their lives without the added stress of work obligations. I urge all members of this hallowed legislative chamber to support the bill and stand in solidarity with those who have experienced the sympathetic situation.

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