IJM Zambia: Widow Restored to Her Home on a "Great Day for Justice"

IJM Zambia stands up for African widows who have homes and land stolen from them.
IJM Zambia stands up for African widows who have homes and land stolen from them.

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – After a ten-year legal battle, one Zambian widow can finally sleep in her home in peace. Just last week, IJM was with Selene* as a judge defended her rights to her home and finally stopped the abusive relatives who were trying to steal it from her.

Bold Theft and Cold Silence

When Selene's husband died in 2003, his sister boldly declared herself as owner of his property. She quickly brought a case to court to have Selene evicted from her home. The court defended Selene's right to the home, but the sister tried again with higher judges. She dragged Selene to court over and over for years. Even though the court had upheld Selene's right to the home, her sister-in-law moved in with other family members. They forced Selene to stay in one tiny room, and they took control of the rest of the house. She had nowhere else to go—so she had no choice but to live side by side with these abusive relatives. For years, they refused to speak to her at home and only acknowledged her in the courtroom. Under their control, she could not farm her land for food or income, and her health deteriorated. She was miserable, emotionally abused and in desperate need of help.

An Advocate for the Long Struggle Ahead

IJM met Selene in 2007 and came alongside her to stand up for her rights. As the case progressed slowly through the courts, IJM social workers helped support Selene with counseling and medical care. They connected her with a partner organization for small business training and a microloan to help earn the income she desperately needed. By 2013, Selene's case had reached the highest court possible. Her relatives tried once more to prove their ownership of the home. IJM attorneys helped Selene stand firm and presented the truth in court. On March 28, the high court judge officially ruled in Selene's favor. The home is indeed hers – as it always should be – and her abusive relatives must leave immediately. After ten years of struggle, the widow was relieved. She can now live in her home in peace. "Ever since her husband died, Selene has had to fight for what rightfully belonged to her," says Pius Chisha, IJM Zambia's church and community relations coordinator. "It is a great day for justice."

*A pseudonym.