The Problem and Reasons of Widowhood

Context of Widowhood in Kenya

In terms of the contemporary instability in the world it is hard to realize the scopes of mortality within people living in different places of it. In this respect people are trying to make their lives comfortable and protected from the negative factors of life. It is reliable to discover the problem of widowhood. This negative factor leads to the destruction of the institution of family due to incompleteness of families and lack of the man’s influence for further generations. In Kenya this problem still terrifies the population where the social and economic situation is far from being solved soon. Thus, the purpose of the literature review props up against the idea of the widowhood in Kenya at the current period of time with glimpses at previous development of social relations. The elements of educational approach are seen in the review in accordance with the theoretical background for composing it. In fact, the Educational Theory is lacking for Kenya. Dyer & Wilkins (1991) analyzing the optimal ways for outlining case studies, argue the position of most researchers while admitting that “the careful study of a single case that leads researchers to see new theoretical relationships and question old ones” (614).

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Purpose Statement

The main goal of the paper is to clearly analyze the reference of the widowhood in Kenya, particularly, and its reasons and influences. Hence, the review represents the information about this particular field of study with details of previous and contemporary drawbacks in the Kenyan society. Target sections of it are scheduled, so that to make the main features clear enough. The analysis is provided according to the information as of the theme gathered for the last ten years. The audience for the literature review is rather wide due to the social character of the raised problem. The pieces of information are also structured in a close relation toward the education and its significance for the country in current internal discourse. Furthermore, the materials give thorough observation of the widowhood problem in Kenya. Thus, the main discussion contemplates historical and comparative types of analysis. The information is sufficient to prove the idea outlined in the thesis in terms of reliability and contemporary character of the referenced sources. The result of the review is thought to fall into the whole picture of contributors to widowhood in Kenya. In this case the significance of the paper presupposes the implementation of the survey to particular methods or mechanisms to solve the problem in the future.

All in all, the purpose of the review contemplates widowhood in Kenya and lack of educational base. The purpose statement leads to the next sections of the discussion due to the open question of the significance of the underlined study.

Significance of Study

Significance of study is implied into the theoretical and practical mismatch of the education role in Kenya, and the effects of its lack for the population. Widowhood according to the sociological observations is in many points resulted due to the not enough educational opportunities for Kenyans. Moreover, the significance of the study also indicates further use of the literature review for making future analysis of the issues directly concerned with the problem of widowhood and education. Some observational works give particular explanation for the issue significance at the current stage of development in Kenya. Gold (1997) gathered materials about sociological and ethnographic peculiarities of different communities, so that to note the following:

If any theoretical concessions are made concerning the sociocultural organization of human communities, they are based on the assumption that those members of the community who are knowledgeable about its organization are distributed, like secrets of nature, in some mysteriously randomized way (390).

In Kenya suchlike attitudinal framework is too peculiar and, in fact, leaves much to be desired. Moreover, the author counting on the data collected in her social research notes the instability in comparative analysis of men’s and women’s ways of life. In this respect it is vital to admit that the mentality of people and economical development play a great role in depiction or characterization of the nation. Nevertheless, the attitude of women in most African countries toward widowhood is quite “preferable in contrast to remarriage” (Jenkins, 2003, p. 59).

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The summary of the section highlights the significance of the study in terms of further use of the review in other fields of particular researches. Thus, the problem of Kenyan education and widowhood are supported by two authors, so that to point out the social relevance of widowhood and education.

Conceptual Framework

The whole situation in Africa and in Sub-Saharan part of it can be examined and pointed out with high rates of poverty, social instability, and widowhood, as a result. In this hard circumstantial reality Jenkins (2003) made a research of the whole territorial peculiarities of the African social grounds for further development of different nations, and admitted that African widowhood is in most terms the result of African women and their regardless attitude to the marital status.

New York African Studies Association et al (2002) assumes the similarity of this social problem also in other countries of the Central part of Africa in its eastern and western sides. The examples of Zimbabwe and Nigeria are taken by the authors to point out the overwhelming growth of widowhood in the region. There is quite outrageous fact about Kenyan nation which states that widowhood affects many women in the younger stage of their marital life in comparison with women in the developed world (New York African Studies Association et al 2002). Thus, the reliability of the research terrifies the world community with the growth of such tendency in Africa and in Kenya, in particular. However, the study of New York African Studies Association et al (2002) outlines the cultural and traditional trends which served as main grounds for the practice of widowhood in Africa, namely: “cosmology, religion, illiteracy, low concept of women, male dominance, umuada (daughters of the lineage), female passivity, inheritance and marriage laws of the land, the extended family system, and poverty” (201).

Berger & White (1999) relate the roots of the widowhood in Africa to the fact that women, for instance, in Zimbabwe, Zaire, Ethiopia, and Kenya are divided in their occupations mostly into rural and market specializations. In this respect they form special cooperatives or organizations in terms of their general interests. By this they just separate their dependency from a man and on these grounds conflicts may appear and cause constant stressor states in a family. Also unequal division of labor contributes to the problem with industrial and environmental risks being apparent for African men in terms of their occupations (Berger & White, 1999). One more reason is the lack of social security which is supposed with such changes in societies as retirement, widowhood or isolation (Dixon, 1987). However, there are too many others which affect the population with widowhood rather greatly. To sum up, the economic and social instability being obvious in Sub-Saharan region of Africa can be asserted as the main ground for similar affects concerned with widowhood in Kenya.

Kenya is chosen in terms of the widowhood problem owing to one of the highest rates in this parameter in the world (Jenkins, 2003). In this respect the women question still remains without any answer. Cornwall (2005) examines the social and traditional factors being responsible for the situation. The illiteracy is another part of the problem which is equally spread among men and women of Kenya.

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With regard to the statistical data, it is necessary to note that the rates of widowhood among women are higher than among men: “…only 7% of men age 60 and over are widowed, compared to 50% of women” (Jenkins, 2003, p. 51). This statistics concerns persons in later life with their need for silence and convenience in relationships with his/her significant other. The percentage of widowed women ever-married between the ages of 15-49 years remained the same since 1979 up to 2000 and equals to 30% in the people of Luo (Van de Walle, 2006, p. 203). According to Ochieng’ (2002), this was caused by the previous hegemony of the colonialism for the Gusii and Luo members.

Mutongi (2007) correlates the roots of the problem to the time of colonial and post-colonial rule in western Kenya. Since that time the grounds for the educational programs were almost trite and in total decline for the population of Kenya. In fact, current situation is observed to be almost the same in the point of education as some twenty years ago. It is when one of the main aims of education props up against the significance of cultivation of vital values for living in the society. Furthermore, education is always colored with positive evaluation for changes in the society. When it s absent or not enough, then the savagery is apparently supposed to dominate. This is why a deeper analysis of the problem may serve as a possible answer of how government and the society may solve the issue of widows in Kenya. In fact, Ellis & Bank (2007) looking at the opinions of more than two thousand women, came to conclusion that Kenyan women are likely to be “disenfranchised on widowhood” (19). In this research there is a remark that widowhood for most of Kenyan women is considered to be similar to such terms as divorce and separation. Hence, they take it for granted without any points on negative side of suchlike event in life.

Oucho (2002) sees the situation in its demographic instability, and listing the main reasons for widowhood in the area, asserts that the main consequences for the Kenyan nation in terms of social situation were the population and conflict between genders and in economical as well as political evaluation. The author leads his discussion toward understanding the fact that Kenyan people as well as other nations of Africa living in the central part of it should bear in mind that widowhood along with orphanhood are the result of mortality among couples and children accordingly (174). It is in most cases the result of political trends in the country and census (Oucho, 2002). Most of the population living especially in rural regions does not have an access to the educational perspectives and are even displaced from the official register. Such persons obviously do not feel the support of the state authority, thus, they feel no choice of better work without proper education. In this respect the social conflict appeared in Kenya: “Conflict also disrupts marital/consensual unions thereby disrupting fertility in the same way divorce or separation does among populations in the reproductive years” (Oucho, 2002, p. 174).

One more reason for the increase of widowhood in the country is the spread of polygamous relationships between one man and several women. In this respect Giri (2006) gathered the religious and cultural peculiarities of the family life of Kenyans and admits that in polygamous communities the death of a man automatically causes widowhood for several women (65). This observation cannot go with traditional Western understanding of the family life, but still the situation with polygamy for some ethnical entities of Kenyan people remains unchanged and trendy. In this respect Hooks (2000) provides critical evaluation of the grounds for the Western family, as the concept: “The traditional Western family, with its authoritarian male rule and its authoritarian adult rule, is the major training ground which initially conditions us to accept group oppression as the natural order” (38).

Caselli et al (2005) provide an analysis of marriages length among different African countries. The authors determined that widowhood in most cases is also the result of age gap which is evaluated with a “slightly longer life expectancy” (358). Moreover, the age gap between spouses also gives grounds for probable widowhood.

Thus, the possibility of man’s death is more real than woman’s in Kenya. All in all, the situation in Kenya is fixed at the highest rates of widowhood among other African countries. The analysis of main contributors to this presupposes cultural, religious, social, economic, and family factors. Illiteracy, way of life, and labor conditions are the main factors which lead to widowhood looking at the social background in Kenya. Moreover, the lack of education is also supposed with such hardship in the country.

Kenya, as many other countries of Africa, suffers from the negative flows of different diseases which are divided into known and unheard-of ones (Mutongi, 2007, p. 4). Thereupon, it became one of the reasons for mortality among the population. In this section the review imparts the theoretical notion of the sexual education for Kenya, in order to get rid of so high variability of widowhood due to the reason of mortal diseases. Yorks & Whitsett (1985) provided he survey over different organizations, so that to come up to the conclusion that adding more cases means adding more variables for the research. In this respect this section is particularly specific for the review, because it touches upon equally important theme which leads precisely to widowhood and needs more educational approach to reduce affection of diseases in Kenya.

Centre for the Study of AIDS et al (2008) provides a sight on the tendency for decrease of the HIV/AIDS rates in the country in the period from the early 1990s to 2002 (15). The situation is not fully controlled by the healthcare services due to the political and administrative conflicts in the country which lead to nowhere in resolving the problem. Health education and the norms for the hygiene are also the result of the inappropriate educational opportunities for the population. Moreover, widowhood is related to the problem of this disease because in most cases it is the result of HIV/AIDS when one of the spouses dies. Initially inadequate attitude toward health and hygiene causes death and widowhood as well. Ember & Ember (2003) in their research analyzed current development of relationships in Kenyan families from the youngest to the oldest representatives of it. Thus, the authors indicate that the process of socialization of boys and girls in some points leads to the lack of knowledge about the elementary measures for hygiene. Mathai (2006) having a look at the situation with AIDS in the African region is apt to suggest the traditional and culturally as well as morally right solution for the prevention from this disease, namely abstinence. This moral principle is also related to the Education Theory due to it as a norm of behavior and even a particular value of the etalon attitude toward problem.

To conclude, Kenya is the country where the problem of widowhood is concerned in most points with poverty and illiteracy of the population. The Educational Theory presupposes elementary and health, particularly, education for the population in order not to increase the problem of widowhood in Kenya. The HIV/AIDS is one of the negative peculiarities of Kenyan society which is imposed as a result of peoples’ sexual illiteracy. Diseases on the whole may lead to death of one spouse and cause widowhood as well. Thus, inappropriate health education and peoples’ lack of awareness of the possible fatal end is also the consequence of poverty and government’s disregard about the situation. Centre for the Study of AIDS et al (2008) provides disappointing statistics as of the disease spread in the country. Mathai (2006) insists on the moral education and abstinence, in particular. Ember & Ember (2003) suggest deeper analysis of age peculiarities of the population in terms of age psychology implementation.

Guiding questions

The literature review showed the reflection on the thesis statement of it in terms of main purpose. In this respect the question of the significance of the study and its application to the contemporary situation in Kenya is disclosed. Second, the question as of the reasons for the widowhood in Kenya was determined. Third, the picture of social and economical dimensions in Kenya is evaluated. Then the educational side of the research is worked out. The issue of the education lack and total illiteracy in the country is emphasized and examined in detail.


The review of the literature provides particular knowledge and facts on the problematic situation in Kenya. However, the research only states the problem without definite algorithms for its solutions. In this respect review represents sources which simply constitute cases of widowhood and illiteracy in the country due to poverty and economical as well as political disruptions. The main idea of the literature review encompasses wider area of concepts and details for the discussion and needs more information and facts being represented and analyzed in the paper.

Summary/ Conclusion

To sum up, the literature review represents the scheduled observation of the problem of widowhood in Kenya. The major sections are structured with strict sequence of discussed theme. First of all, the methodology was performed in order to highlight the flow and peculiarities of the analysis. Second, current observation of Sub-Saharan Africa related to the analyzed issue. Third, Kenya precisely was observed in social features maintained in the country with particular statistical data as well. Guiding questions and limitations of the research provide critical evaluation of it. Nonetheless, the increase of the widowhood among women in Kenya is still one of the most discussed living problems for the society of the country. Nevertheless, the review seeks for the rational explanation of the reasons for the widowhood in Kenya and its significance in terms of the international integrity of the country in the world community and in the African continent, in particular.


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