Cameron: Widowhood Rites In My Tribe

Presented by:
MBIANDA KEMAYOU Blandine Thérèse


Widowhood practices in the grass field region of Cameroon are said to have come from forefathers and it is believed that the practice must continue, if not, the widow would become mad. Women in most of tribes in the Westerns region of Cameroon are more concerned by the widowhood practices than man. So in the following lines I will talk to you about these practices. I’ll define widowhood, present and describe these practices in some part of the western regions and finally talk about the consequences of those practices.


According to the dictionary, Widowhood is the state or period of being a widow or a widower. A widow (respectively Widower) is a woman (respectively a man) whose husband (respectively wife) has died and who has not married again. Widowhood rites are traditional or cultural practices upon the husband’s death; which sometimes increase the widow’s grief and sorrow.


In Bangoua, the widowhood begins when the husband’s family has decided so, it can directly start after the dead of the husband and up to five years later depending on the family. The widow can propose a date but the final decision belong to the husband’s family and it duration is about seven days. Before the opening of the widowhood, if it is too long the widow wears mourning dress which colour is black or white. In fact she has to wear it for one year.

The first day, the widowhood is open by the eating of burned plantain by the widow and his first child in a room near of the kitchen. The widow wear one cloth during this seven days which colour depend on her and very often, all her body even her head is rubbed with ‘kalaba’(special kind of stone made up of clay that women used to eat) and her hair is clean-shaven. She has to sit down on bananas or plantain’s leaves nude. Outgoing and taking a bath are avoided and she has to ask permission to their assistant which are even her family members or her family in law members when she wants to ease herself. She eats and drinks in special dish called in French ‘calebasse’.

There is also a special dish for visitor at the room entrance where they have to put present like money, ‘Jujube’ (it is a traditional peaceful fruit) or whatever they want. The widow is not allowed to shake hands with people, so to great her visitors have to heave her feet and hands and tap one part of her body.

The last day of the widowhood, early in the morning (around 4 am), the widow provided by the visitor’s special dish, her family and her family in law, go to a river where people used to go and where there is a stream of water. In the river, the widow have to put down the visitor’s special dish and confessed that she is not responsible of the dead of her husband then leaved the dish.

If she is guilty the dish will turns around her feet without going anywhere and if not, the dish will be taken by stream of water. For the guilty widow, it is a shame and the family members throw stone on her, blame her, beat her and leave her there. For the widow who is not guilty, she is acclaimed and she is washed in the river and everybody take care of her. She wears a kind dress with a traditional bag and have to go to the market when it is the day, to take for a walk in crowded places and when people see her with her bag, they put present like Kola nut, money inside this bag.

To end with the widowhood, the widow have to have a sexual intercourse with one of her brother in law and he can decide whatever he keep her as his wife or not. If this sexual intercourse doesn’t take place, there is a superstitious belief which says that the widow will catch some diseases and even die.


From all above some question can be infer: Why women who give the life in the world are so disadvantage in terms of right and duties?

All government has to bring change through education and legislation so that equality of right and duties be effective either for man or for woman.

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