ABUJA – A Nigerian Muslim woman is gaining national prominence for campaigning to draw public attention to the plight of widows, divorcees and orphans in Africa's most population nation.
"We intend to focus mainly on the significance of marriage in Islam as well as challenges, problems and prospects," Altine Abdullahi, the head of the Voice of Widows, Divorcees and Orphans (VOWAN), told OnIslam.net.
"It is going to be a continuous process until we achieve the aim of curtailing the rate of divorce particularly in Kano."
Her organization is campaigning to draw public attention to the plight of divorced and widowed women in Nigeria, especially in the Muslims-majority north.
Abdullahi has recently organized a mass marriage for 1,000 divorced women in northern Kano.
"We believe that only the authorities can make and enforce laws," she said.
"And that is why we insisted that marrying off 1,000 women is not enough, but has to be backed up with a law that will provide for divorce to be more expensive than marriage itself."
She suggests that the amount of alimony should be raised as a step to discourage Nigerians against to divorce.
"There should be a minimum of N250,000 alimony in terms of divorce as an integral part of the law," Abdullahi said.
"Part of the provisions of the law should also be the issuing of marriage certificates to couples. This way, the problem of men denying their wives and even children in time of strife would be solved.
"This way, we think the suffering would be reduced.”
Nigeria has one of the highest divorce rates in the world.
Estimates show that there are over one million women divorcees and widows in Nigeria.
The Muslim activist says that divorcees and widows are treated like plagues in Nigeria.
"Do you know that if a pretty woman attempts to earn a living by being a house-help in people’s homes, housewives don’t accept them?" Altine told OnIslam.net.
"Their reason is simply that their husbands could be attracted to her and eventually marry her.
"Then the worst-case-scenario is that if a woman is divorced and tries to venture into business or other means of livelihood, she is considered a prostitute.
"So if alimony is ensured, many women could be self-dependent after divorce. Also, if such laws are ensured, attempt to divorce in most instances will be difficult."
Altine, herself a widow, said the objectives of her organization include bringing succor to the plight of widows, divorcees and orphans in Nigeria.
"We usually organize radio programs, lectures and seminars for married women, divorcees and widows but we recently realized the need for young women to be aware of what it takes staying in matrimony, and even the best ways to avoid separation with their husbands,” she told OnIslam.net.
“This is also the reason why we organized our first lecture for secondary school students who are potential married women.
"The program is not going to stop at enlightening women alone. It will also target men, where we will organize similar sessions for them.”
Her group, which is funded through its members, is also planning a number of projects to help widows and orphans in the country.
"We have a plan to build an orphanage by 2020, a specialist hospital, a shopping complex and a science school by 2020 at an estimate of N350m," she said."We have already started erecting the structure for the orphanage at the eastern bypass and so we shall continue, Insha Allah.”