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Orphanhood, childhood and identity dilemma of child headed households in rural Zimbabwe in the context of HIV/AIDS pandemic

Monica Chizororo, University of St Andrews

This paper focuses on orphaned children who have lost both parents and currently living on their own as child headed households (CHHs), in a rural community in Zimbabwe. The paper examines how Zimbabwe’s escalating HIV crisis has reconstructed childhood through an exploration of how CHHs evolved, the socialisation of household members, gender roles and survival strategies. This paper draws on an intensive ethnographic research project with five CHHs and their siblings. The paper shows that while CHHs are vulnerable, they exhibited considerable competence and capabilities to sustain themselves. However, State and NGO definition of childhood on the other hand, and cultural and local understanding of childhood produce new conceptual struggles of childhood that impacts negatively on the CHHs’ integration into society and their capacity to function fully. The ambivalent position of CHHs needs to be addressed if CHHs are to be recognised as an alternative orphan care arrangement.

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Presented in Session 78: HIV and AIDS and families