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For this old woman a will put everything in order


Josephine William proudly shows her corn harvest in the village of Ngumbaru in Siha, Kilimanjaro. She protected her inheritance, including farmland, from a covetous relative because she had a will written out in her name by her late husband. 

Around the country challenges to the right to inheritance take various forms, however the common denominator among them is that, the victims are usually women, some of whom are too old to put up any significant resistance and protect their rights.

Such women, in their thousands, are consistently winning these battles primarily because LSF’s Access to Justice Program which is designed to help them defend themselves, and in doing so, giving them that vital feeling of confidence, which is necessary for transforming their situations and join the nationwide push against poverty and eventually leading contented lives.

In the green and fertile village of Ngumbaru in Siha, Kilimanjaro region, Josephine William, an old woman in her 70 age, today lives with her grandchildren in the house she inherited after her husband died several years ago.

As the second wife, she faced quite an uphill battle defending matrimonial property that was left to her as recorded in a will that her husband left behind.  His eldest son from his first wife, driven by greed, couldn’t accept that he would have no share in a house, land and a motorcycle among other things that his stepmother stood to keep as her own.

“Right after the funeral he came and demanded to be allocated his mother’s share of the inheritance.  That’s when the clan elders asked me to bring out the written will. In it everything is laid out as clear as daylight; it states that I was the sole inheritor of the property you see around here today. I was however willing to offer him a piece of the land which he accepted, but thereafter he ceased all communication with me”, says Josephine.

She further explains that, one grandchild having seen that the motorcycle would be a valuable source of income, attempted to take it, but his plan was foiled when clan elders learnt about it and advised Josephine to put it up for sale.

“I sold the motorcycle and bought two heads of cattle which I still own”, she explains.

Eliwelu Lota who lives in the village and works as a paralegal played an important role in securing Josephine’s inheritance says, “Not long before Josephine’s husband’s passing, I recall sitting with them right here under the tree and during our conversation and knowing how circumstances can unfold, I brought up the topic of a will. I stressed to him to ensure he writes one to protect his wife from any malice that I knew could arise when he is no longer around,”

Lota’s advice received added traction with the support of Zablon Lyimo, the village executive at the time, who also fully understood the predicaments widows have repeatedly faced especially with regard to keeping property left behind once their husband passes on. “You can’t always guarantee that, a widow will live peacefully after her husband is gone, especially when he has left behind valuable property, and there are still prying eyes around looking to see what they can lay claim to;

“It was important to ensure everything was in order while he was still alive, especially because there had been some degree of rattling from his children by his first wife.  In that regard, I expressly encouraged Lota to facilitate the writing of the will”, he recalls.

When we visited Josephine we found she had harvested her cornfield, her cattle were out grazing and her grandchildren were playing in the yard with beaming smiles.

”There are widows like me here and my little word of advice to them would be to embolden themselves and not fear if and when they find themselves in a situation like mine. Legal help is within arm’s reach.  For that matter, their rights shouldn’t be trampled on”, she tells us as we leave her home.

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