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Society can be unforgiving to widows and single mothers -Widowed mum-of-six

Joan Esenwa’s story is one of resilience, strength and determination. A widow and a supermom, Joan, on a daily basis, overcomes tremendous odds to raise six children all by herself.

Joan’s remarkable journey from humble beginnings in Lagos to becoming a successful entrepreneur and widowed mother-of-six is a testament to the power of determination, faith, and unwavering love for family.

A humble beginning
Born in Oshodi in the heart of Lagos, Joan came into a family of five, with two sisters and two brothers. Her parents, while struggling financially, created a loving and joyful environment for their children.

Her father, a driver, and her mother, a petty trader, instilled discipline and laughter into their household. Joan fondly recalls her father’s playful nature, which helped ease the pain of their financial struggles. Their family shared a deep love for music.

“We were all in the choir, and often sang together, resembling scenes from the movie Sound of Music.

Challenging educational journey
Joan’s educational journey was marked by frequent school changes due to financial constraints. She attended multiple primary and secondary schools, which left her with few lasting friendships.

“I think I went to about four primary schools and five secondary schools because of the same issue of money. So, I really didn’t have that normal secondary or primary school background.

“If you ask me who were my classmates in secondary school, I can’t answer because I didn’t get to know anyone while I was in those schools.”

Despite these challenges, Joan remained determined to create a better future for herself.

Love and early marriage
Joan’s life took an unexpected turn when she met her future husband through a family connection. They quickly fell in love, leading to a swift marriage when Joan was just 22.

Her husband, Franklin Esenwa, saw in her everything he desired, and their bond was sealed within six months. Their love story was blessed with six wonderful children, five girls, and a boy.

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The tragic loss
Tragedy struck Joan’s life on February 2, 2020, when she lost her husband, Franklin. Although Joan had left for church after a minor misunderstanding that morning, she received a distressing call informing her that her husband had fallen and been rushed to the hospital. By the time she arrived, he had passed on.

“It was a huge blow, because Franklin was a very good man. He was calm and a little introverted. But he was our pillar of support,” Joan recalls. She was, however, determined to provide for their children.

Building a business
In the face of adversity, Joan turned to her culinary skills. She established herself as a successful caterer and events planner. Her journey in the catering industry began long before, as she had a passion for cooking from a young age. She even worked as a cleaner at the airport while running a toast bread business, which later funded her enrollment in a catering school.

“My cooking skills came from my grandmother, who had three children that were caterers. It is something that runs in the family.”

With over 15-18 years of experience, Joan honed her skills and built a thriving catering business. To adapt to changing circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic, she briefly operated a daily food restaurant. In September 2022, she refocused her efforts on catering for events and securing contracts, successfully managing her business despite life’s challenges.

Family and faith as pillars of strength
Joan draws strength from her understanding children, who have excelled academically and continue to support her. Engaging in church and school activities has allowed her children to cope with the loss of their father. Additionally, Joan’s parents and siblings provide unwavering support, reminding her that she is not alone in her journey.

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Facing societal pressure
Joan acknowledges that society can be unforgiving to widows and single mothers. People often pass judgment and make widows the subject of gossip. “The society makes widows the talk of the town; they watch your life and judge you at every point. Some of them just want to point out your wrongs and weaknesses. It is tough and sad.”

Despite these challenges, Joan remains resilient and focused on her children’s well-being.

To fellow widows and single mothers, Joan offers words of encouragement. She emphasizes the importance of never abandoning one’s children, regardless of the obstacles faced.

Claire Ezeokeke
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