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Widowhood is the state of having lost one’s spouse to death. The word “relict,” which means “someone left over,” is an old term for a widow. The term “widow” derives from an Indo-European root that means “widow,” and other Indo-European languages have cognates for it. The 14th century is when the word “widower” first appears in print. It supplanted “widow” with a reference to men.
Widowhood can be used for sex, at least according to some dictionaries, but widowerhood is also listed in some dictionaries. Occasionally, the word validity is used. The adjective for either sex is widowed.

The widowhood effect is a term used to describe the increased mortality rate after a spouse passes away. It’s “stronger during the first three months after a spouse’s death when they had a 66-percent increased chance of dying”. Whether women or men are in a worse situation remains debatable, and studies have sought to support both sides.

While it is disputed whether gender plays a part in the intensity of grief, gender often influences how a person’s lifestyle changes after a spouse’s death. Research shows differences in caregiving responsibilities, expectations, and responses to the spouse’s death. Women, for instance, frequently bear a heavier emotional load than males, and they are less willing to experience the loss of a second spouse.

Men and women may react differently and regularly alter their lifestyles after becoming bereaved. Women tend to miss him more if a spouse passes away unexpectedly; if a wife passes away after a protracted terminal illness, men tend to forget her more. Also, it has been noted that both men and women change their lifestyle habits after losing a partner. Without their partner to help, people of both genders have more trouble caring for themselves.

The older spouses grow, the more aware they’re of being alone due to the death of their husband or wife. This negatively impacts the mental and physical well-being of both men and women.

In societies where the husband is typically the only provider, his passing may leave his family economically helpless. This situation can be made worse because women often outlive men.

In 19th-century Britain, widows had more significant opportunities for social mobility than in many other societies. Along with the ability to ascend socio-economically, widows— presumably celibate”—were much more able (and likely) to challenge conventional sexual behavior than married women in their society.

A woman can be required to follow local social norms since doing otherwise would be detrimental to her financial standing. Nonetheless, other people frequently use this tradition to maintain money in the deceased spouse’s family. Because widows are often “unaware of their rights under the modern law…because of their poor position, and lack of education or legal representation,” it is uncommon for them to contest their treatment.

Unequal benefits and treatment generally received by widows compared to those obtained by widowers globally have spurred an interest in the issue by human rights activists. Unable to have been legally married, the term widower was not considered socially acceptable. This situation was usually compounded by an added stigma attached to the surviving man.

In 2004, younger widowed women in the United States were more likely to face economic hardship. Additionally, women who are married and living in financially unstable households are more likely to become widowed due to the correlation between the male head’s mortality and the household’s wealth.

Widows in underdeveloped and developing regions of the world face more severe conditions. One hundred thirty-five countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which is working towards reducing discrimination and mistreatment against widows in member countries. This includes measures to address violence and the denial of property rights.

Social Security in the United States provides a Survivor’s Benefit to eligible individuals who have experienced a loss before their 50th birthday. If they remarry after this age, they may still be able to apply for benefits. The maximum amount of benefits remains unchanged, but the surviving spouse can choose between accessing their own earned benefits or the benefits of their late spouse at different intervals to maximize the increased benefits for delaying a filing. For example, they could claim their first husband’s reduced benefits at age 63, their second husband’s total benefits at age 67, and finally, their enhanced benefits at age 68.

For many women worldwide, the devastating loss of a partner is magnified by a long-term fight for their fundamental rights and dignity. Even though there are more than 258 million widows worldwide, widows have historically been unseen, unsupported, and unmeasured in our societies.

Today, as armed conflicts, displacement, migration, and the COVID-19 pandemic leave tens of thousands of women newly widowed and many others whose partners are missing or disappeared, widows’ unique experiences and needs must be brought to the forefront, with their voices leading the way.
On International Widows’ Day, 23 June, look at some of the issues affecting widows worldwide and what must be done to safeguard and advance their rights.

Widows may encounter economic instability, discrimination, stigma, and harmful traditional practices related to their marital status while navigating through their grief, loss, or trauma following the death of a spouse. In several nations, widows are not granted equal inheritance rights, and they may lose ownership of their land, be forced out of their homes, or even be separated from their children. The rejection of inheritance can have a substantial financial effect on widows, their children, and future generations.

According to estimates, one in ten widows worldwide suffers from severe poverty.

Women are much less likely to have access to pensions than men. On the other hand, child widows and girls are given into marriage before 18 years old and whose husbands died experience multiple rights violations and face life-long impacts from early marriage and widowhood. Among the estimated 258 million widows worldwide, 1.36 million are children. However, the actual figure is probably higher.

Besides experiencing financial instability, widows may also confront stereotypes, biases, and harmful traditional practices that can lead to severe consequences. They might encounter clothing, food, and movement limitations for years after losing their spouse.

In some situations, widows are viewed as carriers of illness and are forced out of social structures altogether. They may be subjected to “ritual cleansing” procedures that involve coerced sexual intercourse or bodily scarring, which can have life-threatening health implications. Sometimes, widows are forcefully “passed on” or “inherited” by a new designated partner, such as their deceased spouse’s brother or another relative. This denies them their rights to safety, bodily autonomy, justice, and dignity during their lives after loss.

In Nigeria, information was gathered using a structured self-administered questionnaire from 42 widows working at the University College Hospital and the College of Medicine in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State, in the southwest of Nigeria.

The findings reveal that most widows are middle-aged, between 35 and 55, with little or no prospect of remarriage. Almost half of them had only primary education and were of low professional status; 48% earned meager salaries and had a high parity, having five or more children.

The problems identified by these widows in order of priority include financial/economic hardship (69%), absence of husbands will resulting in the loss of properties to husband’s relations (55%), loneliness and depression (41%), poor relationship with in-laws (41%), difficulty in social interaction (21%), and inadequate housing (17%).

Recommendations for alleviating the hardships of widows suggested include encouragement of female education, enhancement of women, and economic empowerment.

Through advocacy and public health awareness campaigns, to enlighten the masses about the plight of the widows
To eliminate the traditional dehumanizing practices to which Nigerian widows are often subjected.

In conclusion, these categories of people face peculiar challenges, especially the widows in our society. We at NTF recognize the need to proffer solutions to these challenges and are in line with this recognition. We are making efforts to address them in ways that we can.

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