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Widows Plight: Cynthia Imaraji | Rock of Ages

Cynthia Imaraji hails from the South-Eastern part of the country and was forced into marriage at a very young age right after completing her Primary 6 education; according to her family, she was ‘fat’ and therefore capable of bearing children. Her marriage was a long trial of verbal abuse, neglect and unapologetic infidelity. Her new ‘home’ became a prison into which she had been shoved by her own family at a very tender age.

She became widowed at the age of 19. Prior to his death, her husband had been a chain smoker and a drunkard often sleeping three nights in a row outside their matrimonial home with no notice to her of his whereabouts. He had been suffering from a prolonged wracking cough due to his constant smoking and one night, he passed away without warning, leaving her with two children; a boy and a girl. At the time, the youngest of both children had been a new-born baby, merely 7 days old; a boy who never got to meet his father. Cynthia had been a young mother and wife, still recovering from the stress of childbirth only to be plunged unceremoniously into widowhood.

She narrated that to her surprise, her husband’s brothers were at their door as early as 5am the following morning; strangely, their presence was not necessarily to see the corpse nor to mourn the passing of their late brother. They were not interested in commiserating with the grieving widow either. Rather, they presented themselves at her door at such an ungodly hour to demand for whatever money her late husband had behind. She told them the truth: he hadn’t left any money behind especially since he had been in the habit of sleeping outside their home and spending what money he did have on other women. While he had been alive, they had barely had two pennies to rub together and he had left no assets behind whatsoever!

The burial was conducted with some help from her own family and after that, her husband’s family cast her aside, refusing to help in any way with bringing up his kids. Cynthia’s lack of formal education hindered her efforts to get a good job and she had to take up working on people’s farms for wages. She did that for a while before her family insisted she that she had to return to Makurdi to help her sister in selling rice. The experience left her further disillusioned and embittered because of the treatment she received at the hands of her own flesh and blood.

She suffered rejection and maltreatment even from her own family and finally, in a bid to survive, she was forced to move to Abuja for greener pastures. Abuja proved to be just as harsh and unwelcoming. In order to be able to afford the basic necessities, Cynthia hired out her time, her energy and her hands. When she had nothing left to sell, she had to sell her body because help was not forthcoming from anywhere. She had been reduced to sleeping with men for money because of the abject poverty in her life. Tears filled her eyes as she confided with heart-breaking sadness that she had lost count of how many men she had had to sleep with only to be paid N3,000 (Three Thousand Naira only) each time. If she was very lucky, then the men offered her N5,000. (Three thousand Naira equals approximately $7 as at the time of writing this book). Cynthia said it got to a point where men would call her up on phone and order her to their houses; she would come running immediately only to have sex with them and then have a measly N3,000 tossed at her thereafter. She became frustrated at a point and two years ago, she resolved to quit even that and has stood by that resolve ever since; even though she admitted it hasn’t been easy so far. It has been one trial after another and there seems to be no end in sight.

Currently, her children are grown and her daughter is married with three kids but she has had to support her daughter and her husband financially as well. Her son is grown too and quickly following in his father’s womanizing footsteps; preferring to lavish what little money he does have on skirt-chasing and a frivolous lifestyle.

Recently, Cynthia was faced with paying her monthly house-rent of Three Thousand Naira (N3,000) and tried to turn to a friend for help. He told her bluntly that he would only give her the money if she gave him sex in return.