I am living a peaceful life with my grandchildren. Nothing else.’ Stories of adversity and ‘resilience’ of older women caring for children in the context of HIV/AIDS and other stressors
While the adverse effects of HIV and AIDS on female care-givers in southern Africa have been well documented, there are too few examples of more nuanced analyses, which reflect not only adversity and challenges, but also positive responses, perspectives and experiences. By discussing findings of qualitative research conducted with nine female carers of children in South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal province, one of the world’s most HIV-affected regions, this paper explores two themes, focusing mainly on older (grandmother) carers: (a) their strength and resourcefulness in responding to adversity to ensure their families’ survival and (b) their leadership role in affronting HIV and related stigma within their own families. These two themes unfold through insights provided by the stories of two study participants, which are discussed in the context of the broader study findings and literature. The aim of this research is both to add to experiential data on the much-debated notion of ‘resilience’ and further challenge the stereotype of older carers or ‘rural African grandmothers’ as passive victims of a changing world, rather than key agents of change. While terms such as ‘coping strategies’ and ‘resilience’ should be used cautiously, it is important to consider carers’ short-term responses to the many challenges faced, with a view to constructively informing interventions.