Growing up in the era of AIDS: Childhood experiences in rural Zimbabwe

by Eve Chandaengerwa

Institution: University of Pretoria
Year: 2014
Keywords: UCTD
Record ID: 1475315
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2263/43299


This thesis is an ethnographic account of the complex and diverse experiences of children growing up in the context of an AIDS epidemic in Chiweshe Communal lands, Zimbabwe. To capture the personal experiences and views of children in a context of AIDS and political economic change in rural Zimbabwe, fieldwork was conducted over 15 months, from January 2007 to March 2008 for the collection of stories, drawings, dreams, and songs from children aged 4 to 16 years. Analysis showed that, despite their extreme context, the children in Chiweshe created temporary friendships, relations of patronage, and informal organisations with and without adults, to obtain their survival needs. They also appropriated spaces and discourses for play, work, and learning, necessary for their daily needs. It is argued that childhood agency emerged through these self-initiated activities, within multiple contextual constraints of poverty, illness, and loss. These findings challenge the one-sided, adult-centric accounts of childhood which portray children as pre-socialised victims, passive, incompetent, ignorant, and silent, on issues pertaining to AIDS and related notions of sexuality, sickness, death, work and politics. It is suggested that recognition of such instances of children‘s competence and creativity is crucial for interventions aimed at reducing the suffering, untimely deaths, and various forms of deprivation that often characterises contexts ravaged by the HIV and AIDS pandemic.