Ghanaian (Akan) women’s experiences of widowhood and property rights violations: An ethnographic inquiry

Rose Korang-Okrah, Wendy Haight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study, part of a larger ethnography, explores the interaction of national inheritance laws and local culture in the everyday lives of Ghanaian (Akan) women who have been widowed. Property ownership is fundamental to women’s economic survival, empowerment, and liberation from abusive relationships. Yet millions of women around the world, especially those in developing nations lose their rights to own, inherit, and manage property following the deaths of their husbands. This research took place in two cities and two villages each in the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo regions. Methods included participant observation conducted over a four-month period in and around the homes of women who had been widowed and focused observations of women’s interactions with family members in the home. In-depth interviews conducted in Twi with 20 widows, five from each site, focused on women’s experiences of widowhood. Thirteen women described property rights violations occurring when they were vulnerable due to bereavement and/or widowhood rites, and resulting in long-term economic challenges for them and their children. Their experiences suggest that local, customary laws have constrained the implementation of national, progressive laws to eliminate gender discrimination in inheritance. Women also described their sources of resilience including social support from family and friends, spirituality, and their own advocacy for other women. We discuss implications for international social work, especially developing an understanding of local challenges and resources foundational to the design and implementation of effective, culturally sensitive policy, and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-241
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 25 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • Ghanaian (Akan) widows
  • property rights violations
  • resilience
  • spirituality
  • widowhood rites


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