Family finds a wife for man who died childless so as to continue his lineage

By Nina Steele 

Traditional African womanYes you heard it right! This I understand from a short clip from BBC Africa, is Igbo custom. For those not in the know, the Igbo people are an ethnic group from Nigeria. In the clip, which I first stumbled upon on Facebook, we are informed that the man died unmarried and childless. Normally, that would be the end of it. But it seems, not in Igbo culture. In that culture, it is still possible for the person’s lineage to carry on. All the family has to do, is find a woman willing to become his wife posthumously. And of course in the clip, they did.

The woman then went on to have 3 children who, even though they are not the biological children of the dead man, are now considered his. The man who fathered the children was chosen by the family of the deceased for that purpose only, and is related to the dead man.

If anyone was still in any doubt about how much value is placed on having children in the African culture, this story is it. I had never heard of that practice, although I am not surprised. Having said that, that this particular aspect of that culture is still going on, in this day and age, is quite remarkable. The woman has been married to the dead man since 2007. The video is of 2019.

What often tends to happen in the developing world is that, there are two worlds existing side by side. There is what goes on in the cities and then a different reality in rural areas. Often, people living in cities, particularly the younger educated lot, tend to do away with many of the old practices, unlike in rural areas, where people are unaffected by much of modern life.

I don’t pretend to know much about Igbo culture, but based on what I know about today’s African youth, I very much doubt that a young woman in the city, who is educated and has ambitions of success, would agree to go along with this type of scenario.

And then, there is the obvious issue of the type of future that awaits those children, in a country of over 186 million people, expected to rise to 400 million by 2050, with 60% of those people living below the poverty line. These figures may not be too much of an issue to people living in rural areas, but to the younger generation living in cities, with social media accounts, aware of the huge number of Nigerians trying to enter Europe illegally, it matters. Why go to this length to bring children in a world where a life of struggle is what most certainly awaits them?

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