Widow Isolation

Grief Compounded: Widows’ Inheritance Rights Under Threat

In many parts of the world, the death of a husband often signifies the beginning of a widow’s struggle for survival. One of the most significant challenges they face is widows’ inheritance rights and property being claimed and taken by in-laws. This issue is not isolated but rather a widespread phenomenon affecting millions of widows globally. For instance, a widow in Nigeria was harassed by her brother-in-law for the documents of her house even before her husband’s body left for the funeral home. Another widow in the same country had her house emptied and her husband’s cars taken away by her in-laws just three days after her husband’s death.[1]

The Global Picture: Women’s Rights and Widowhood

The plight of widows is a critical aspect of women’s rights issues. It is estimated that of the 285 million widows in the developing world, more than 115 million live in abject poverty. Furthermore, 86 million have suffered physical abuse.[2]

The impact of widowhood extends beyond the widows themselves, affecting more than a billion people, considering that the average widow has three children and six other family members.[3]

The Need for Legal Reforms

The stories of widows worldwide underscore the urgent need for legal reforms to protect their rights. The United Nations has noted that widows in many countries often confront denial of inheritance and land rights, and other forms of abuse. They can be evicted from their homes and abused or even killed, sometimes by family members. In many societies, a woman’s social status is inextricably linked to her husband’s, so that when her husband dies, a woman no longer has a place in society.[4] To regain social status, widows are often expected to marry one of their husband’s male relatives, sometimes unwillingly.[5]

The Role of GFA World

GFA World has been instrumental in shedding light on the plight of widows and advocating for their rights. For instance, GFA World reported on the story of Gulika, a widow in Asia, who was considered cursed by her village after her husband’s death.

She faced harassment and was forced to undertake grueling chores, such as collecting water for her in-laws. However, with the intervention of a GFA World-supported pastor, a new water well was drilled in front of her home, significantly improving her living conditions.

The stories of widows worldwide are a stark reminder of the urgent need for legal reforms and societal change to protect their rights. As part of our commitment to making a difference, GFA World has established the Widows and Abandoned Children Fund. We invite you to join us in this cause. Your donation can help provide widows with the resources they need to rebuild their lives and secure a better future for their children. Together, we can make a difference.

Learn more about widow isolation

[1] Ken Walker of InChrist Communications. “Coronavirus Intensifies Hardships for Widows.” GFA World, June 17, 2021. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/widows-worldwide-face-tragedy-discrimination/#fn:16:~:text=WIDOWS%20WORLDWIDE%20FACE%20TRAGEDY%2C%20DISCRIMINATION.
[2] “Life after Loss: Rights, Dignity and Justice for Widows,” UN Women, June 22, 2018, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/6/compilation-international-widows-day.
[3] “Explainer: What You Should Know about Widowhood,” UN Women, June 21, 2021, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/6/explainer-what-you-should-know-about-widowhood.
[4] “Life after Loss: Rights, Dignity and Justice for Widows,” UN Women, June 22, 2018, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/6/compilation-international-widows-day.
[5] UN Women, “Levirate Marriage,” UN Women Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls, 2012, https://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/607-levirate-marriage.html.