Becoming a widow is a terrible experience, no matter who you are or where you live. But for some women, the loss of a husband is only the first in a series of losses. In addition to dealing with the pain and loneliness of losing a spouse, widows in many parts of the world are also dispossessed of their land and their homes, becoming outcasts from their communities.
In many places, women depend on men for access to the land on which they rely for housing and for their livelihoods. When those relationships are interrupted, as when a husband dies, these women may be forced to leave their homes and their land. In fact, widows around the world are routinely forced off the land they rely upon because their rights to that land were tied to their husbands.
A woman who moved to her husband’s land when she married, for instance, may be considered a stranger to the community in which she built her life. Because she is not considered by her community to have independent rights over the land she uses, she may have no recourse if her in-laws or other family members decide to remove her from that land—a removal that is often done by force.