Property dispossession

Export Indicator

The percentage of widows who have experienced property dispossession
What it measures

To determine the prevalence of property dispossession among widows after their spouses have died.


Property dispossession could potentially make caregivers and their children especially vulnerable. In many countries, (non-written) customary law, (written) statutory law, common law and sometimes religious laws operate in parallel. As a result, widows and their children are often denied their inheritance. In many cases enforcement of inheritance laws are weak, and relatives take the children’s inheritance even where the laws provide for property transfer to widows and children. It is important that succession plans (arrangements) made for children are legally binding. An increasing number of countries are establishing and harmonizing legislation to give women and dependent children inheritance rights when their husbands/fathers die.


Number of widows aged 15–49 who experienced property dispossession.


Total number of women ever widowed, aged 15–49.

Method of measurement

In a household survey, women are asked whether they have ever lost a husband. If they have, they are asked if they had any property taken because of the death. Survey implementers should estimate the number of widows potentially included in a household survey before collecting this indicator. This can be done by looking at a previous census or nationally representative survey and multiplying the proportion of widows aged 15–49 by the expected number of women in the survey. If the number of projected widows is below 50, the indicator will not be stable enough to monitor over time.

Measurement frequency

Age group:

Education: N/A

Gender: N/A

Geographic location: N/A

Pregnancy status: N/A

Sector: N/A

Target: N/A

Time period: N/A

Type of orphan: N/A

Vulnerability status: N/A

Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

While it is important to have a written will, enforcement of the law at the local level in light of traditional inheritance patterns carries equal weight. For this reason the indicator does not measure the number of wills but rather the level of property dispossession in society in order to assess if improved laws and the enforcement of laws have made any difference in the lives of vulnerable women and their dependent children.
The indicator focuses on widows to simplify the possible complexities of this phenomenon. It therefore does not cover the entire problem. For example, double orphans who are living with other adults are excluded. The new caregiver might be the dispossessor, and the orphan is unable to report on this. At the programmatic level, the other groups (orphans, widowers and caregivers of orphans) should also be monitored.
Before deciding to collect this indicator, survey implementers should estimate the approximate number of widows who will be covered in the survey. This can be done based on previous surveys that collect data on marital status. If the expected number of widows in the survey is under 50, this indicator will not provide reliable data.

Further information