Widowhood is generally traumatic and very challenging; it is demanding and tasking. This study investigated economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis.

The study was a survey research. The population of this study comprised all young widows in Ilorin metropolis while sample size of 200 respondents was used in the study.  A questionnaire entitled “Economic and Sexual Challenges of Widowhood Questionnaire” (ESCWQ) was used to collect data for the study. The variables taken into consideration were age, religion, family type and number of children. Mean and rank order analysis were used to answer the main research question while the four null hypotheses formulated were tested using t-test and ANOVA statistical techniques.

The findings of the study revealed that economic and sexual challenges of widowhood are: inability to meet personal needs; uncontrolled sexual appetites without a legal spouse to satisfy me; and sexual injustices against one as a widow.  It was also found that no significant difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on age, religion, family type and number of children.

 Based on the findings of this study, it was recommended that counsellor should organise, from time to time, group counselling section for widows in order to cope with their economic and sexual challenges such as inability to meet personal needs; uncontrolled sexual appetites without a legal spouse to satisfy me; sexual injustices against one as a widow among others. Governments need to provide widows in Nigeria with functional education capable of emancipating them from the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood. There is need for widows’ empowerments in terms of access to a means of livelihood in order to carter for their children especially those without job.


Title pagei

Declaration ii

Certification iii

Dedication iv

Acknowledgement v

Table of Contents vi

List of Tables x

Abstract xii


Background to the Study 1

Statement of the Problem 8

Research Questions 10

Research Hypotheses 11

Purpose of the Study 12

Significance of the Study 12

Operational Definition of Terms 13

Scope of the Study14


Preamble 15

Concept and Types Marriage; 15

Concept of Widowhood; 20

Widowhood Practice in Some Nigerian Societies; 23

Economic and Sexual Challenges of Widowhood; 33

Empirical Review of Related Literature; and 40

Summary of the Reviewed Related Literature 44


Preamble 46

Research Design 46

Population, Sample and Sampling Techniques 46

Instrumentation 47

Psychometric Properties of the Instrument 48

Procedure for Administration and Collection of Data 48

Procedure for Scoring 49

Method of Data Analysis 49


Preamble 50

Demographic Data 50

Hypotheses Testing 54

Summary of the Findings 57



Preamble 59


Conclusion 62

Implications for Counselling 63

Recommendations 64

Suggestions for Further Studies 64




Table 1: Percentage Distribution of Respondents Based on Age         51

Table 2: Percentage Distribution of Respondents Based on Religion        51

Table 3:  Percentage Distribution of Respondents Based on Family Type        52

Table 4:  Percentage Distribution of Respondents based on Number of Children  52

Table 5: Mean and Rank Order Analysis of the Respondents’ Expression on 

the Economic and Sexual Challenges      53

Table 6: Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) showing Respondents’ Expression

on the Economic and Sexual Challenges Based Age     54

Table 7: Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) showing Respondents’ Expression 

on the Economic and Sexual Challenges Based Religion    55

Table 8: Mean, Standard Deviation and t-value of the Respondents’ Expression 

on the Economic and Sexual Challenges Based Family Type    56

Table 9: Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) showing Respondents’ Expression 

on the Economic and Sexual Challenges Based Number of Children       56



Background of the Study

When a man and a woman are joined together in marriage, they are referred to as couple or husband and wife. The new home formed is expected to be alife long union, where the couple reason together and work together to meet the physiological, sociological, economical and spiritual needs of their family. Death, like a devastating fire, destabilized this union. Aziken (2012) explained that the death of a spouse is the most emotionally devastating experiences that an individual can undergo. Thus, it is accompanied by grief, Briggs (2005) stated that death breaks the social ties between spouses and makes the survivor feel incomplete like “a fraction of a whole” thereby making him or her a single parents to handle the needs of the family alone. If the survivor is a woman, she is faced with, role conflict or inability to discipline the children, denial of sexual relationship, severe grief and persisting distress.

According to Bennett, Smith and Hughes (2005), widowhood is extremely stressful, it is capable of destabilizing the person involved and yet, it is a common occurrence among middle aged women. Widowhood refers to a condition in which an individual looses his/her spouse. Loss of spouse is one of the most negative life events, next only to the loss of a child (Bennett, et al, 2005). Widowhood is defined as the status of an individual who was legally married to someone who subsequently died. Widowhood as a practice is not associated with a specific race or nation; it is a general phenomenon applicable to a woman or man whose spouse has died, especially when he/she has not re-married (Bennett, et al, 2005).

A widow is a woman who has lost her husband through death and usually she feels an ominous ring of finality and heartrending grief which is almost incomparable in any other type (Uche, 2015). A widow is described as a woman who survives her husband and have not remarried (Oniye, 2007; Dodo, 2010). Automatically, the death of a spouse will result in loss of income and property that the deceased spouse received or owned, unless provisions for their continuation and inheritance is made explicit in income programme rules, laws of inheritance, or through the deceased spouse's will (Adebowale, 2015). Cultural practice has worsened the situation for the widows unlike the widowers who are pitied and freed while the widows face opposition. Widows on the other hand are exposed to indiscriminate abuses in all aspects of their lives, and they bear the scars of their stigmatization in a society that is culturally biased (Adebowale, 2015). 

Ironically, the disorganization and trauma that follow the death of a spouse seem to be greater in women than in men whenever either loses their spouse (Fasoranti&Aruna, 2007). Women are more likely than men to be widowed for two reasons. First, women live longer than men (a fact highlighted by worldwide data regarding differences in life expectancies of men and women). In addition, women tend to marry older men, although this gap has been narrowing. Because women live longer and marry older men, their odds of being widowed are much greater than men's (Lee, 2002). Widowhood is unlike divorce, separation, or abandonment or rejection in which couples can still meet even though not on good terms. It implies that the woman will never meet with her husband any more either on good terms or otherwise. 

Senavoe (2001) stated that a marriage of 14, 24, 30 years or more comes to an abrupt end when death strikes and  immediately  individual’s identity would suddenly change from that of a wife or husband to a widow to widow. The effect of the death of spouse on widows ranged from mumbles, to fear, anxiety, sorrow and disorientation. Olaitan (2003) stated that “the individual regards death as natural and preordained” Death is a great concern for religious group, scientists and all men, which make it a subject of scientific investigation. He went further to state that “death is a biological event, disintegration of organic into inorganic matter” making life to waste away. Olaitan (2003) further opined that death remains a reality but relatively few people lives their life as if it could not happen. When the death of a parent, child or loved one occur the individual suffer not only grief but also a sense of guilt. 

Widowhood presents a myriad of economic, social and psychological problems, particularly in the first year or so after the death of the spouse. The major problems of widows are economic hardship and sexuality. When the husband was the principal breadwinner, his widow is then deprived of his income and the nucleus of the family is destroyed (Fasoranti&Aruna, 2007). Widowhood in African Society also has effects on woman's health resulting from the practices that are oppressive and humiliating to women as a result of the death of the husband. Woman in African society are meant to suffer stressful situations when the husband dies, this stressful situation makes widows to suffer a lot of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual problems. Health involves ability to function physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially in an environment. African widows do not enjoy the best of health due to pressure of conforming to widowhood practice (Eboh&Boye, 2005). A lot of sanctions placed on widows by the society make it difficult for women to express their view point in widowhood.

Widowhood is generally a greater problem financially for women than men, and economic difficulties can lead to lower psychological well-being. Several studies (Schuster & Butler, 1989; Thompson, Gallagher, Cover, Galewski& Peterson, 1998; Davar, 1999; Reddy, 2004) have indeed found that widowhood has a greater adverse impact on the psychological well-being of women. Other studies, however (Umberson, Wortman& Kessler, 1992; Lee, Demaris, Bavin& Sullivan, 2001; Jason, Luoma& Pearson, 2002), have reported stronger effects on men. Still others have found no gender differences at all (Li, Liang, Toler &Shengzu, 2005). Some of the practices widows are meant to pass through on the lose of the husband are, shaving of hair on the head, drinking of remains of bath water used to wash the husbands corpses, mourn her husband death for about three to twelve months depending on the ethnic group. In some societies and practices, women do not have right to inherit land or property, widow are not allowed to bathe, clean her surrounding during mourning period, on rare cases once bath a day (Eboh&Boye, 2005). 

According to Owen (2008), the woman in most society faces a lot of problem after the death of her husband. The problems faced by the widows include many social, economic, cultural and psychological problems. The widow in our society is bound to experience various dimensions of stress, which invariably constitutes stress level in her life from then on (Owen, 2008). For example, lack of necessary emotional support and financial assistance at an age when her earning power is gradually on the decline is a source of unending stress for the widow.

In addition to the psychological problems/stress the survey conducted by us also highlighted the health problems of the widows. About 39 per cent of the elderly widows suffered from chronic health problems in this area (Aboderin, 2004). The percentage of physical immobility due to chronic illness and old age was found to be consistently higher for women than men in all states of the community (Aboderin, 2004). An analysis of their problems found through various research studies, and survey underlines following important problems faced by widows: economic deprivation and insecurity; restricted mobility due to ill-health; physical insecurity; reduction in dignity and self-esteem;loneliness due to rejection; lack of meaningful occupation and leisure activities; and lack of facilities for the widow’s children’s (Mannan, 2002; Sevak, Weir & Willis, 2003).

As widows, women suffer some of the most severe subjugation of their whole lives. Widowed women are harassed, abused, and denied land and livelihood titles and rights. The widows have to face many kinds of deprivation: economic, social, cultural and emotional. Of all the deprivation the economic derivation is the most harmful (Nuriddin&Perrucci, 2008). Mannan (2002) found that household headed by widows suffer dramatic decline in per capita income and that the mortality risk of widowhood was higher for women than men. Among basic causes of their vulnerability are restrictions on the residence, inheritance, remarriage and employment opportunities of widows (Aboderin, 2004). Sex is part of life; sexuality is part of the makeup of every man and woman. Many traditions, customs and attitudes to do with widows are linked to a patriarchal view of a woman’s sexuality as being either the property of a man, or else to be ignored. From these attitudes has risen a whole culture of discrimination and suppression of women’s creative potential throughout her life (Dreyer, 2008).

Owen  (2006) observed that patriarchal societies hold that sexual activity for women was allowed only within marriage institution yet no one bothered about men’s sexual expedition. She found many of such traditions worldwide. Widows living without men to cover them as head of household became easy targets for sexual innuendo and sexual assault. She explains that sexuality of widows has evolved into a taboo from “religious and cultural inhibitions which hold either that widows should have no sexual desires or needs whatsoever, or that the sexuality is so rapacious that it must be stringently controlled lest it ensnare susceptible men. Widows thus must be forcibly incarcerated in institutionalized celibacy or be taken over in remarriage or other sexual union by the dead husband’s kin (Owen, 2006).

The plight of widows in general and particularly that which relates to their sexuality has often been overlooked in academic research and writing (Newton-Levinson, Winskell, Abdela, Marce, & Rob, 2014). Owen (2006) carried out a global survey on the situation of widows‟ sexuality. She generally noted many sexual injustices against widows in all cultures of the world. She established that the western and developed societies showed a little better situation of the widows‟ sexuality due to women’s economic and political independence. But just like those in most of the societies in Asia, Caribbean and Africa, they still find themselves in humiliating and distressing situations. The findings of Newton-Levinson, et al. (2014) showed that women experience high levels of community stigma in relation to their sexuality.

Among the Asian communities, Owen (2006) discovered that traditional responses to widowhood are intended to draw a curtain over her sexuality and make her into a non-sexual being. This idea, as Nyaundi (2003) recounts, is well illustrated by a practice where a widow may offer herself to be burned alongside her husband’s corpse as the highest form of devotion. Other widows’ among the Indians and Muslim communities out of intense fear of uncontrollable  sexual desires commit themselves to religious duties concealing their femininity not to attract or tempt men.

Magesa (2007) ably demonstrates that in African societies sex is jealously guarded under male custody as it increases and propagates life force. Similarly, he shows that in African communities, bride price seals marriage that even death does not break. This ensures the status of women and guarantees her needs, including sexual needs in her husband’s family. In Kirwen (2009) study, the widows’ sexuality is viewed from a patriarchal perspective subjecting them to „uncontrolled‟ sexual appetites of men. Hence, as Shisanya (2003) demonstrated through her research on the widow sexual cleansing rite among the Luo, such cultural practices places widows to luminal status denying them control over their sexuality.

Statement of the Problem

Majority of widows in Nigeria particularly Kwara State, suffer economic deprivations, sexual challenges, dehumanizing, psychological, mental torture, loss of social status and reduce enormous circumstances. In some culture in Nigeria, when a woman loses her husband, the relatives of the husband deny her the inheritance she should have gotten from the late husband. She is accused of having a hand in the death of her husband and made to pass through agonizing rituals to prove her innocence. The prevailing attitude suggests that a widow cannot own property in her own right. In such situations, widows tend to suffer a lot at the loss of a partner, and this has socio-economic and health implications for the widows. Widows also expressed low sex life or sexual harassment. 

Studies point out that more than 40% of the women who head their households in advanced countries are widows, while in Arab countries; widows constitute more than two thirds of the female heads of households (Safieddin, 2016). According to the Global Widows Report (2015), at least 245 million women around the world have been widowed and more than 115 million of them are in abject poverty. In addition, Ordu and Christopher (2012) stated that everywhere in the world, widows constitute between 7% and 16% of all adult women and lack quality lives including sexual life. However, there is shortage of data on widows which undermines the appreciation of their problems and the living conditions. This lack of data on widows is the main obstacle affecting policies and programmes to overcome their problems in Nigeria. 

There are many cases of widows who have been molested sexually and otherwise in Nigeria for instance, an examination of the comments of two widows in Nwoga (2009), A 75 year old widow recounts her experience when she lost her husband in 1978 shows that she was asked for the passbook and other valuable items which she gave over to them. The second information was from a 35 year old widow and mother of 4 children who noted that their entire property was confiscated and was sexually harassed by in-laws and neighbours. A lorry was sent from home to come and pack all in their supermarket. The disorganizing and traumatic experience which accompanied the death of husband cannot be overemphasized.

Several researchers have attempted to work on widowhood. For instance, Ordu and Christopher (2012) researched on counselling needs of widows in River State. The findings of this study showed that widows need counselling irrespective of age and family size. Carey (2015) worked on weathering widowhood problems and adjustment of the widowed during the first year.  This study revealed that adjustment was more difficult for widows than for widowers, anticipatory grief was an important factor in the adjustment of widows and follow-up visits by physicians and clergy were helpful to the widowed.

Adebowale (2015) studied Counselling intervention in the provision of psycho-social support for widows: empirical evidence from Nigeria. Oniye (2007) worked on adjustment strategies of Nigerian widows to widowhood stress: issues for rehabilitation counselling.The finding of the study revealed that the adjustment needs of widows to widowhood stress are interpersonal oriented, self care-oriented, cognitive-oriented, time management oriented and solitary oriented.

Evenson, Wassertheil-Smoller, Mouton, Charles and Loevinger (2003) worked on the effects of widowhood on physical and mental health, health behaviors, and health outcomes. The findings showed that at baseline, married women reported better physical and mental health and generally better health behaviors than widowed women. Whereas, women who remained married over the 3-year period showed stability in mental health. Both groups of widows reported more unintentional weight loss over the 3-year period. Changes in physical health and health behaviors were inconsistent, with generally small effect sizes.

Despite the efforts of the earlier researchers on widowhood, to the best of the researcher knowledge, none of the previous researchers had worked on theeconomic and sexual challenges of widowhood in Ilorin metropolistherefore, this study centres on the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis.

Research Questions

The following research questions were raised for this study:

1. What are the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis?

2. Is there any difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on age?

3. Is there any difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on religion?

4. Is there any difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on family type?

5. Is there any difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on number of children?

Research Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses were formulated based on the research questions to guide the conduct of the study:

1. There is no significant difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on age.

2. There is no significant difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on religion.

3. There is no significant difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on family type.

4. There is no significant difference in the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis based on number of children.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to find out the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis. It also aims at knowing the influence of moderating variables ofage, religion, family type and number of children on the economic and sexual challenges of young widows.

Significance of the Study

The findings of this study would be of immense value to the following  people: widows, in-laws, relatives of the widowed, Government, Non-Governmental Organizations, religious groups, social workers, counsellors, the entire populace and future researchers.

The findings of this study would benefit the widows in the sense that, they will be aware of economic and sexual challenges of widowhood and by this way widows might be able to overcome hardship, confusion, sexual need and poverty.The findings of this study will provide information for in-laws of the widowed and they could see the enormity of the economic and sexual challenges of widows; with this information, in-laws might show love and care to widows rather than treating them like outcasts.

The findings of this study could be an eye opener for relatives of the widowed. This study would provide information on the need to support and rally round their sister/aunt who is a widow to relieve them of loneliness, emotional trauma and the stress of taking care of the children alone and other economic and sexual challenges.The result of this study would provide information to Government to abolish dehumanizing widowhood practices for women in the society. Government, through the information gotten from this study, could provide a robust care and support for widows in the society. There is a necessity for the government to help widows alleviate poverty; the findings of this study could be an advocate for this.

The findings of this study could be a hint for Non-Governmental Organizations on the need to join hands with government to build sustainable programmes for widows. In these programmes, seminars, skill acquisition programmes and other issues pertaining to widows can be embedded in the programme.The findings of this study would furnish social workers and counsellors on the need to give adequate support to widows. Social workers could go into communities to gather the needs of the widows thereafter; they can be referred to the counsellors. Counsellors with the knowledge of the findings of this study will be able to provide appropriate counselling services that will cater for the needs of widows in the society.

The entire populace would be informed of the kinds of economic and sexual challenges faced by widows through the findings of this study and they could provide adequate support to them. The findings of this study could serve as a basis for future researchers to carry out further study on economic and sexual challenges of widows in Nigeria.

Operational Definition of Terms

Economic Challenge:Scarcity of want faced by a woman who has lost her husband.

Sexual Challenge: Low sexual life and sexual harassment encountered by young widows 

Widow: a woman who is bereaved of her husband and has not remarried.

Widowhood:  state or condition of husband or wife bereaved of his/her partner

Young Widow: a man or woman whose wife or husband is dead and has not remarried and is young at least below the age of 40 years.

Scope of the Study

The study examined the economic and sexual challenges of widowhood as expressed by young widows in Ilorin metropolis. The study is limited to young widows in Ilorin metropolis, Kwara State, Nigeria. The study is also limited to moderating variables of gender, age, family type and number of children. 200 young widows will constitute a sample for the study. The instrument that would be used to collect data from the respondents is a self-structured questionnaire titled “Economic and Sexual Challenges of Widowhood Questionnaire” (ESCWQ). Frequency count and percentage will be used for demographic data, mean and rank order analysis will be used for the main research question while t-test and Analysis of Variance statistical tools will be used to analyze the research hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance.     



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