Women who lose their loving husbands to disease, accidents, murder, and other natural causes are hardly left to mourn in peace in some communities as some in their clan eye them as ‘choice meat’ left behind by the deceased to be inherited.
However, the first female magistrate in Kenya, Effie Owuor did not accept this customary with her hands down after she lost her second husband.
A strong woman who understood the law, Lawyer Owuor decided to challenge the decades’ old tradition and said ‘no’ to wife inheritance. She became a vocal advocate against customary practices and became a woman leader in her own right.
She is quoted saying: “The Luo community treats widows like dirty people who have to be cleansed before they can integrate into the society again.”
Wife inheritance is a social and cultural practice where the widow left behind is expected to become the wife of the brother to the late husband, or another close male relative. The relative meets all the marital requirements to the widow. The practice of wife inheritance led to the rampant spread of AIDs in communities.
She then added: “As the Chairman of a Government Taskforce that is reviewing the legal regime and how it affects women, it is humiliating to be harassed by men when I am still mourning my husband.”
Lawyer Owuor refused to be inherited by her deceased husband’s family.
The first two members of the Kenya Women’s Judges Association were Effie Owuor and Joyce Aluoch (they were the only two female judges in Kenya). The Kenya Association was an affiliate of the International Women Judges Association.
Effie became the first female magistrate in 1970, and senior magistrate 1974. Women in Leadership have many things to learn from such women who scored firsts and left a remarkable trail behind them.