Widowhood: A Cultural Abuse

     Are widows human beings or aliens? Are widows born to be widows? Do widows deserve freedom from all sorts of oppressions and abuse? 

A woman becomes a widow when she loses her husband, just like a man becomes a widower the day his wife deceased. No woman is born with the hashtag for being a widow on her forehead. Possibly, no woman prays to become one. 

Marriage is intended to be a joyful affair, and it is usually backed up by the formality statement, “until death do us part.” This implies that neither the woman, nor the man envisaged the idea of death right from the beginning of their nuptials. The truth goes that everyone will die and what is heterogeneous about this is that, the death date applies differently to every human being. However, what happens when the woman loses her man, or when the man loses her woman?

While widowers barely had problems, widows are subjected to numerous abuse and loss of rights. 

Are there displaced, migrant, refugee-widows? Absolutely! Many women fleeing the war zones have lost their spouses, and some, also lost their children to the warfare. 

That widows are experiencing prejudices connote that theirs is another pattern of violence against women. The plight of widows in the world is different from countries and civilizations. In most African nations, widowhood is a complete tragedy. It is a cultural abuse. It seems like losing one’s spouse is unacceptable and a scourge. It is understandable that one should be handed the ultimate freedom and peace to mourn one’s deceased husband. Regrettably, this is often the contrary. Still, it is a misdemeanorIMG_1030 of the women’s fundamental rights when they experience continuous ostracism, trauma, discrimination, physical abuse and economic deprivation, only because they are widows. 

Who are the perpetrators of widows’ abuse? 

The widows’ in-laws are usually the major culprits. Through the maltreatment from their in-laws, the women experience second suffering. Some are accused of killing their husbands. And these women have no alternatives than undergo certain messy, satanic ritual procedures to demonstrate that they are no responsibility for these deaths. Under the tradition, some widows are passed on to becoming wives to their late husbands’ brothers. If they refused, their children will be removed from them before they are kicked out. 

Other widows suddenly wake up to discover that, their late spouses or his family members deliberately ticked off their names from his testaments. 

Livelihood is more extremely difficult for uneducated, unemployed widows, in particular, those in the rural regions. Life gets even more unpleasant for widows with lots of young children and fewer financial resources. 

In few examples, the widows have to deal with additional conflicts from within her own family members. Mothers are known for forcing their widowed daughters to quickly marry them off to someone else out of the desperate need to adapt to societal norms. 

Similarly, the communities where these widows are, may be the origin of abuse towards these women. In most cases where women do not have the rights to own a land, widows are not earmarked to assume ownership of their late husbands’ farmlands. Council authorities may harass these women for sexual gratification in exchange for awarding them the legal rights to the farmlands. 

The Global Fund for Widows in Egypt and Mama Zimbi Foundation in Ghana are some of the NGOs providing support for widows. Economic empowerment is the ultimate solution to tackling widows’ abuse.

The Widow’s Dilemma 

Conference: CSW60 March 14-24

Date: 14/03/2016

Time: 10:30 – 12:00

Parallel event: “Widowhood: An Economic, Social, and Humanitarian Crisis ”

Moderator: Baroness Fiona HodgsonIMG_8468



Heathers Leathers (Global Fund for Widows)

Dr Joyce Akumaa Dongotey-Padi (Mama Zimbi Foundation, Ghana)



Meera Khana (Guild of Service, India)

Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi (Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, Nigeria)

Margaret Owen (Widows for Peace through Democracy)

Zarin Hainsworth (Widows Rights International)