The challenges facing widows in African contexts: A literature review
Keywords:Challenges, widows, gender, culture, African context.
AbstractWidowhood in Africa presents unique challenges for women due to cultural and social factors. This paper discusses the challenges of widowhood in African contexts with a view that various social, cultural, legal, financial, and economic issues are at the centre of the challenges widows face in Africa. A thematic literature review was used to examine the multifaceted challenges faced by widows in African societies. Findings show that widows in Africa face multiple challenges, including limited healthcare access, property rights, social support, and harmful traditional practices, impacting their well-being across various dimensions. Cultural attitudes, legal barriers, resource constraints, limited awareness, and the complex interplay of these factors hinder effective interventions. The literature review also found that changing cultural norms, improving access to education and economic opportunities, and strengthening social protection systems are crucial steps towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society for widows. The paper concludes that comprehensive and coordinated strategies are necessary to address these multifaceted challenges, including legal reforms, economic empowerment, awareness campaigns, and the provision of essential resources. Further, collaborative implementation of these strategies can promote gender equality, reduce poverty, and enhance the lives of widows in African countries. Further, there is a need for the urgency of comprehensive interventions and support systems to alleviate the hardships faced by widows in African societies.
Adekile, O. M. (2013). Towards a Socio-Legal Approach to the Protection of Widows in Africa. The Nigerian Journal of Public Law, 2: 30- 52.Retrieved from: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3111325
Agency. Retrieved from: http://www.ipsnews.net/2020/02/widowhood-stressful-unprepared/
Bond, J. (2019). Women's Legal Rights. Retrieved from:https://oxfordre.com/africanhistory/display/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277734-e-258;jsessionid=0AEFE61C08F4D4F3C0C0AFDCD3E8A84C
Chamie, J. (2021). Widowhood: Stressful and Unprepared. New York: Inter Press News
Chant, S., & Gutmann, M. C. (2016). Mainstreaming Men in Gender and Development: Debates, Reflections and Experiences. Oxfam.
Craig A, Rochat T, Naicker SN, Mapanga W, Mtintsilana A, Dlamini SN, Ware LJ, Du Toit J, Draper CE, Richter L and Norris SA. (2022). The prevalence of probable depression and probable anxiety, and associations with adverse childhood experiences and socio-demographics: A national survey in South Africa. Front. Public Health. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.986531
Danish Refugee Council. 2023. Global Displacement Forecast 2023. Retrieved from:https://pro.drc.ngo/media/4c5hxa5c/230310_global_displacement_forecast_report_2023.pdf
Djuikom, M.A., & Van de Walle, D. (2018). Marital Shocks and Women’s Welfare in Africa. Policy Research Working Paper 8306. Washington, DC: World Bank Group. Retrieved from: https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/154211516215200599/pdf/WPS8306.pdf
Dube, M. (2022). Isolation and Its Impact onWidows: Insights from Low-Resourced Communities in Binga District, Zimbabwe. Social Sciences, 11: 298. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11070298.
Dudovskiy, J. (2018). The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: A Stepby-Step Assistance: Types of Literature Review.
Haddaway NR, Bethel A, Dicks LV, Koricheva J, Macura B, Petrokofsky G, Pullin AS, Savilaakso S, Stewart GB. (2020). Eight problems with literature reviews and how to fix them. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 4(12):1582–9.
Heena, C. & Himanshi, J. (2023). Addressing Financial Exclusion through Financial Literacy training programs: a Systematic Literature Review. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 15(1): art. no. 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40461-023-00147-9
Human Rights Watch. (2017). “You Will Get Nothing”: Violations of Property and Inheritance Rights of Widows in Zimbabwe. Retrieved from: https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/01/24/you-will-get-nothing/violations-property-and-inheritance-rights-widows-zimbabwe
Ikpeme, J. (2020). Widowhood Rites and Social Stigma: Examining the Process of Reintegration and Attitude of Community members. International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Review, 10(3): 274-298.
Isilow, H. (2017). HRW urges Zimbabwe to reform inheritance laws: In-laws routinely seize from widows property that had belonged to the couple. Retrieved from: Retried from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/hrw-urges-zimbabwe-to-reform-inheritance-laws/733900
Izzi, M.O. & Fab-Eme, G. (2020). Widows and Inheritance Rights in Nigeria: Beyond the Letters of the Law. International Journal of Innovative Legal & Political Studies 8(3):1-12. Retried from: Retrieved from: https://seahipaj.org/journals-ci/sept-2020/IJILPS/full/IJILPS-S-1-2020.pdf
Kabede, T.S. & Zeleke, M. (2019). Challenges and violations of women rights in ‘Naata’ (widow inheritance) marriage practice among boro shinasha in Benishangul Gumuz regional state, Ethiopia. MOJ Women’s Health. 8(1): 89-97. Retrieved from: https://medcraveonline.com/MOJWH/MOJWH-08-00218.pdf
Kimeu, C. 2022. Bereaved then evicted by in-laws: Kenya’s widows fight disinheritance. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/jul/01/kenya-widows-property-legal-rights.
Klugman, J. (2019). The Gender Dimensions of Forced Displacement: Findings from New Empirical Analysis. Retrieved from: https://www.jointdatacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Quarterly-Digest_-December-2021_Final.pdf
Lloyd-Sherlock, P., Corso, B., & Minicuci, N. (2016). Widowhood, Socio-Economic Status, Health and Wellbeing in Low and Middle-Income Countries. The Journal of Development Studies, 51(10), 1374–1388. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2015.1066497
Loomba Foundation. (2016). World Widows Report- A Critical Issue for the Sustainable Development Goals. London: Loomba Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.theloombafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2019-06/WWR.pdf
Mabaso, M. L. (2019). The Socioeconomic Challenges Faced by Widows in Zimbabwe. International Journal of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, 6(3), 31-37.
Mabunda, Y.P & Ross, E. (2023). Experiences of Black South African widows regarding mourning rituals following the death of their spouses: Upholding cultural practices or violating human rights?, Death Studies, 47(3): 328-338. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2022.2065708.
Mazurana, D., Parpart, J. L., & Raven-Roberts, A. (Eds.). (2020). Gender, conflict, and peacekeeping. Rowman & Littlefield.
Mohamed, S.P. (2020). Why South Africa needs a grant for surviving spouses. Retrieved from: https://www.iol.co.za/thepost/news/why-south-africa-needs-a-grant-for-surviving-spouses-34255228-82ed-4370-828a-8c271b209bfa
Moonga, C. (2017). Zambia: Sub-Saharan Africa Widows Increase Worries Gender Link. AllAfrica. Retrieved from: https://allafrica.com/stories/201707030794.html.
Motsoeneng, M. & Modise, A. M. (2020). Grieving widows’ lived experiences in a rural South African setting. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 30 (3). 264-267. https://doi.org/10.1080/14330237.2020.1767935
Mwandayi, C. & Chirongoma, S. (2020). ‘Suspected killer’: Tamar’s plight (Gn 38) as a lens for illuminating women’s vulnerability in the legal codes of Shona and Israelite societies. HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 76(3), a5893. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i3.5893
Ngoveni, A.D. Women’s Experiences, Challenges and Coping Strategies of Widowhood in Mopane District, Limpopo Province. Retrieved from:https://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/28238/dissertation_ngoveni_ad.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Nkechi, I.O & Anthonia, A.I (2016). Influence of Widowhood Practices on the Psycho-social and Physical Health of Widows in Selected States of South-Eastern Nigeria. European Journal of Research and Reflection in Educational Sciences, 4(6):2056-5852.
Nowell, L.S., Norris, J.M., White, D.E. & Moules, N.J. (2017). Thematic Analysis: Striving to Meet the Trustworthiness Criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16:1-13.
Odhiambo, E. (2023). Widows are part of the journey to gender equality. Retrieved from:
Pemunta, N.V. & Alubafi, M.F. (2016) The social context of widowhood rites and women’s human rights in Cameroon, Cogent Social Sciences, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2016.1234671
Sekgobela, G. L., Peu, D. M., & van der Wath, A. E. (2020). Health-Support Needs of Widows in South Africa: A Phenomenological Inquiry. OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying, 81(3), 507–522. https://doi.org/10.1177/0030222818786416
Shumbamhini, M. (2020). Widowed women in Africa denied basic human rights. Global Sisters Report. Retrieved from: https://www.globalsistersreport.org/social-justice/widowed-women-africa-denied-basic-human-rights
Snyder, A. (2019). Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines. Journal of Business Research, 104, 333-339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.07.039
Sulumba-Kapumba, G.A. (2018). Widowhood within the Malawian Context: A pastoral care model (PhD Thesis). Pretoria: University of Pretoria.
The Conversation Africa. (2023). Widows in Nigeria are sometimes treated badly: culture is no excuse to violate rights.
The Mail & Guardian. 2023. Customary law can pose problems for widows. Retrieved from:https://mg.co.za/article/2018-11-23-00-customary-law-can-pose-problems-for-widows/
The Writing Center. (2023). Literature Reviews. Retrieved from:https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/#:~:text=Thematic%3A%20Thematic%20reviews%20of%20literature,the%20harpoon%20for%20whale%20hunting
Together We Rise. (2023). Global Fund for Widows Fact Sheet: Life Challenges of the Women Served. Retrieved from: https://togetherwomenrise.org/programfactsheets/global-fund-for-widows-gfw/
Ude, P.U., & Njoke, O.C. (2017). Widowhood practices and impacts on women in Sub-Saharan Africa: An empowerment perspective. International Social Work, 60(6), 1512-1522.
United Nations Human Rights. (2014). Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Retrieved from:https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/WHRD/WomenRightsAreHR.pdf
United Nations Women. (2020). Women's Land Rights and Tenure Security in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings. Retrieved from: https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-procedures/wg-women-and-girls/insecure-land-rights-women-threat-progress-gender-equality-and-sustainable-development
United Nations Women. (2021). Explainer: What you should know about widowhood. Retrieved from:
Van de Walle, D. (2017). Invisible and Excluded: The Fate of Widows and Divorcees in Africa. Retrieved from: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/01/20/invisible-and-excluded-the-fate-of-widows-and-divorcees-in-africa
Watson, M. (2018). Millions of Child Widows Forgotten, Invisible and Vulnerable. Action on Child, Early and Forced Marriage.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Misheck Dube
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
For all articles published in IJRBS, copyright is retained by the authors. Articles are licensed under an open access Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license, meaning that anyone may download and read the paper for free. In addition, the article may be reused and quoted provided that the original published version is cited. These conditions allow for maximum use and exposure of the work, while ensuring that the authors receive proper credit.