Cristina Rafael has an amazing story about her neighbor—let’s call her Angela—who came to her with a terrible problem. Several problems, actually. So many it was hard to know where to start.
Angela was recently widowed. Her husband’s family, and her son, had excluded her from all the burial and memorial services for her late husband. The son then kicked Angela out of the house. She spent most of her time in her maize field, sneaking in and out of the house when he wasn’t looking. He gave her no food and would not allow anyone to visit her.
Her son did this to Angela even though she had taken him in after his own mother passed away. Her late husband appeared one day at their home (near Maputo, Mozambique’s capital) with a 6-month-old boy, his son with a deceased girlfriend. Angela raised him as her own. He grew up and became a police officer. Yet when his father died, this is how he treated her.
Cristina Rafael says Angela was depressed by this situation. Who wouldn’t be? She tried to commit suicide by throwing herself in front of a moving car, but did not suffer any serious physical injuries. Rafael moved Angela into her home to keep her safe and gave her a few suggestions. Rafael explained that under Mozambique’s 2004 Family Law, a widow is due 50 percent of the couple’s assets upon the death of her husband, with 50 percent going to the children.
Rafael and Angela then sought advice from a local nongovernmental organization called Cá-Paz, an ally of Oxfam that offers legal aid. They trained Rafael to be a resource for her neighbors who need advice. With legal guidance from Cá-Paz, Rafael helped Angela bring a complaint to the local court, called a tribunal.
The ungrateful son soon found out about the case and boasted to his stepmother that he would use his influence at the court to ensure she never got a hearing. And indeed the tribunal had not set a date for one. So the attorney at Cá-Paz wrote the tribunal a strongly worded letter. The result? The court held a hearing and ordered a division of the assets.
Rafael says Angela now “feels better, looks better, and is more active in defending her rights in this case. I’m glad she’s not in any danger now.”
It’s not exactly a happy ending—she still has to figure out a way to share the house and get along with the ungrateful son. But it’s not a bad outcome.