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Challenges Faced by Widows


Challenges Faced by Widows

In Nigeria, widowhood comes with a lot of burdens and disadvantages. These include maltreatment, discrimination, and stigmatization. Tradition, modernity, and neo- patriarchy all present challenges to Nigerian women. Some traditions barred women from inheriting lands and properties.


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In different parts of Nigeria, the ways Widows are treated are different from one another.

In some Southern Nigerian communities, Widows accused of killing their husbands were forced to drink or bathe with the water used to wash the husband’s corpse, and some were forced to have sex with the corpse.

Widows were not consulted when matters concerning them and their children were discussed by their in-laws. Widows and women alike are excluded from discussions about allocating land.
In Northern Nigeria, where polygamy is a norm, remarried Widows occupy a “lower wife” status in the family.

In almost all parts of Nigeria, socio-cultural expectations still demand that Widows wear special robes (white or dark dresses) and shave their hair throughout the mourning period.


The Igbos are located in the South Eastern states of Nigeria. They include indigenes of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. Other Igbo speaking Nigerians are found in some parts of Delta and Rivers states of Nigeria.
The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria and Africa.
The Igbos prized their women folk, yet a woman in the Igbo culture is not accorded full social recognition no matter her status in life unless she is married and bears children.
They remain a woman of substance as long as their husbands are alive. If an Igbo woman loses her husband to the cold hands of death, her story changes.
Automatically, she becomes a murder suspect in some places because death in most parts of Igbo land is not deemed a natural occurrence. The widow is seen as unclean and unholy, and as a result of people’s perception of the widow, certain harmful widowhood practices are meted out to her. These practices arise from the culture of the particular Igbo community.

Widowers were more favored than widows. It was more of a man’s society than women.

In India, a widow becomes a focus of collective repudiation, seen as a bearer of bad luck, unclean, polluting and dangerous. She has to undergo rituals, some of them are humiliating and some life threatening. She has to cleanse herself in order to safeguard the community from her impurity.

Indian widows dressed in white robes were ostracized in their community.

All these demeaning practices meted out on widows made me recall one of the literature stories I read back in secondary school.

This story is about a widow, people in the community avoided her even though her children were not left out, they were married off just to leave the mother. They were actually three widows, there was a path from the stream that was meant for them. The three widow’s hair were shaved off, one was made to sleep beside her husband’s corpse for three days in a room, another one was made to drink and bathe with the water used to wash her husband’s corpse. There was a tradition made for them if they want to remarry, but it must be within the same family her dead husband came from. They suffered loneliness, humiliation and were ostracized, it was an emotional story. You can read ‘Lonely days’, that’s the story title.

All these practices were in the olden days but some are still practiced. In the current world, laws are made concerning widows, their rights have been fought for. ‘A widow shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the husband’s property’ A widow shall have the right to continue to live in the matrimonial home. In case of remarriage, she shall retain this right if the house belongs to her or she has inherited it.

What God says concerning widows:

Fundamentally, God is the defender of widows, he is a kind God who keeps an eye on widows. He is profoundly concerned for her, together with the stranger and the fatherless. He is righteous and protects them for he is “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows in his holy habitation “ Psalms 68:5.
“ Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God” 1 Tim 5:3-4, Mark 7: 10-13.
Also read James 1:27, Acts 6:1, 1 Tim 5:3-16.

To be continued…..

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