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Gender and Lifecycles

Edited by Caroline Sweetman

Oxfam Focus on Gender

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Front cover: Family group, Pakistan. Photo: Maryam Iqbal

Oxfam GB 2000
Published by Oxfam GB, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ, UK.
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ISBN 085598 450 3

This book converted to digital file in 2010


Editorial 2
Caroline Sweetman

Why we should invest in older women and men:

the experience of Help Age International 9
Sylvia Beaks

'At my age I should be sitting under that tree':

the impact of AIDS on Tanzanian lakeshore communities 19
Judith Appleton

Providing sex education to adolescents in rural Bangladesh: experiences from BRAC 28

Sabina Faiz Rashid

Using life histories to explore change:

women's urban struggles in Cape Town, South Africa 38
Rachel Slater

Intact or in tatters? Family care of older women and men in urban Mexico 47
Ann Varley and Maribel Blasco

Transitions and boundaries:

research into the impact of paid work on young women's lives in Jordan 56
Mary Kawar

Community research on older women in the Dominican Republic 66

Jacquie Cheetham and Wendy Alba

Girl-trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and the position of women in Nepal 74

Pratima Poudel and Jenny Carryer

Gender, age, and exclusion: a challenge to community organisations in Lima, Peru 80

Fiona C Clark and Nina Laurie

Resources 89
Compiled by Erin Murphy Graham
Publications 89
Organisations 93
Websites 95
Videos 96

hy have development policy- Sustainable human development depends
makers, practitioners, and not only on recognising and supporting
researchers been slow to women in their social and economic roles,
recognise the contribution, needs - and but on recognition of, and support for,
rights - of older and younger people, in the contribution of younger and older
both South and North? The overemphasis people of both sexes.
of mainstream development on young and Articles here focus on a wide range of
middle-aged adults is understandable to topics relating to gender, age, and
some extent, since it is at this stage of life generation. These include women's life
that both women and men are physically histories, reproductive health education
and mentally mature, become parents, and of adolescents, trafficking of young girls,
are most capable of work. However, as the survival strategies of child-headed
articles here show, this is only part of and grandparent-headed households
the picture. An enormous contribution, affected by HIV/AIDS, older women's
including both paid and unpaid work, is marginalisation from community-based
made to all our societies by the young and organisations (CBOs), and the attitudes of
the old. If these groups were better older women and men to living alone or
represented in civil service, government, entering care homes when they reach the
and development funding agencies (all point where support is needed. Articles
institutions that replicate the age and examining the issues facing older women
gender biases of surrounding society), and men slightly outnumber those that
policy might reflect reality more accurately. focus on the younger generation. Articles
Older women and young girls, in on other key aspects - such as girls' formal
particular, make a contribution to
education, and harmful traditional
household, community, and national
practices, including child marriage - can be
development that is not only undervalued
found in recent issues of Gender and
by their own households and communities,
Development, on Education and Training,
but ignored by policy-makers who assume
and Violence Against Women.1 It is hoped
them to be dependants, cared for by their
families. 'One of the most overpowering to include articles on child soldiers in a
myths in contemporary development future issue on Humanitarian Work, to be
thinking and strategies is that women and published in 2001.
children do not work' (Sohoni 1995, 117).

The girl child have the widest gender gaps. In both

regions, improvement is coming far too
slowly. The proportion of girls in South
Within the family, age and sex decide clout and
Asian primary schools increased by only
both work against the girl child. Consequently,
2 per cent in the first half of the 1990s.
the girl is twice denied because of her age and
Even when girls are enrolled, they are less
gender, and she is twice removed from the likely than boys to complete their schooling.
benefits and entitlements of her childhood as However, there is relatively little
well as her labour (Sohoni 1995,124). awareness of the complex reasons that
prevent millions of young girls worldwide
There is, now, widespread awareness from receiving education. It is more than
among development workers and poverty at household level, or even lack of
researchers that promoting girls' health and provision, that prevents these girls from
education is critical to development: it has being educated. Attention to the ways in
economic and health benefits for the which gender and age come together to
individual, but also for her family and create disadvantage shows us that barriers
community. A typical argument runs: to girls' education are concerned with the
'If girls are not viewed by families and role that young girls are expected to play at
societies as having critical roles and present, and in the future.
potential for adulthood, and if
Within the household, young girls are
opportunities are not available, then they
expected to substitute for their mothers if
will become mothers with children who are
the latter are unable to perform the
more likely to die in infancy, less healthy,
household duties that go with being female.
less educated and less confident, and the
This happens either during the day,
cycle will be repeated. An investment in
preventing girls from attending school, or
girls should be considered an investment in
after school hours, preventing them from
national development' (Kurz and Prather
undertaking private study or making them
1995, 5).
too exhausted to continue their double role.
Girls are often less healthy than their Feminist critiques of existing development
brothers in poor households, where more models, which focus on integrating women
resources are allocated to boys. Girls are into production, have long pointed out the
less likely to be taken to clinics when they cost to girls of policies that only promote
are unwell, and less likely to receive a good women's production, without challenging
diet. In extreme situations, where the the gender division of labour within the
contribution of girl children is undervalued home: 'If women are encouraged, or
and their cost to the household seems obliged by economic crisis, to spend ever-
unbearably high, they may suffer deliberate increasing hours in production, someone
neglect in childhood, or be killed or has to be found to compensate for the loss
allowed to die in infancy (Sohoni 1995). of labour within the home. This has had a
The phenomena of son preference and serious negative impact on girl children'
daughter neglect, combined with the toll (Sen and Grown 1987, 43).
that gender-based discrimination takes on
Currently, there is increasing pressure
women throughout their lives, have
on children to labour outside the home, as
resulted in 100 million 'missing' women
well as inside - and this leads many
world-wide (Summers 1994, quoted in
children to be exploited (Chambers, preface
Leach 1998, 9).
to Johnson et al 1998). Parents need to boost
There are 42 million fewer girls than family earnings, and employers know they
boys enrolled in primary schools across the can depress production costs by employing
world. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa children and paying them lower wages.
In 1997, UNICEF estimated that there were to school, if classes are mixed-sex, if
at least 190 million child income-earners teachers are male, if learning materials
in the world (Johnson et al. 1998, 126). challenge gender norms - all of these things
It is widely recognised that poverty means may expose girls to possible sexual activity,
that many children need to work to abuse, and pregnancy. This will devalue
survive, but coercive and exploitative forms them as future brides, and they may face
of work - sex work, armed combat, or a future of poverty and insecurity as a
manual labour which stunts children's result. In contexts where employment
growth - must be replaced by employment opportunities are few, it is hard - even for
that is non-exploitative, combined with an loving and responsible parents - to risk
opportunity for education and training. these things in the hope that a girl may be
In the United Nations Convention on the able to make her own living through paid
Rights of the Child (1989), widely ratified work at the end of her education.
by countries across the world, children are In her article, Sabina Faiz Rashid of the
declared to have the 'right to a childhood' - major Bangladeshi NGO, BRAC, focuses on
a specific period of the life course where the Adolescent Reproductive Health
learning, through schooling and play, Education (ARHE) programme, which
should be uppermost. teaches reproductive health and gender
There has been much energy expended awareness in BRAC's own schools. These
by governments and NGOs throughout the have been set up for adolescents who have
world on curtailing child labour, but it not had the opportunity to attend school
seems clear that for many children and previously. BRAC seeks to reach girls and
families there is no alternative. Poverty boys before they experiment sexually and
indicators are worsening in many countries place themselves at risk of pregnancy and
in South and North, and many families are sexually transmitted disease. The ARHE
coping with the impact of economic crisis inculcates the idea that there is an
on employment and income generation by alternative to early marriage and
sending young and middle-aged adults childbearing, for both girls and boys.
to work away from impoverished regions. It hopes to promote more equitable
In communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin relations between the sexes, influencing
America, parents and breadwinners may be families and communities.
absent for another reason: as a result of Adolescent girls are widely stereotyped
AIDS. In her article, Judith Appleton as potential sexual partners, pure and
discusses the coping strategies of simple: their capacity to take on many
households headed by children - and different roles and tasks in society is
grandparents - in fishing communities in ignored. As sexual partners, they may be
Tanzania. These children are replacing the acquired through fair means or foul.
productive capacity of their parents, by Culturally sanctioned forms of violence
becoming fishers and farmers themselves. may be used against them, including forced
The opportunity for education is light years or early marriage, genital mutilation, and
away from these boys and girls. forms of sexual slavery. In their article,
Pratima Poudel and Jenny Carryer trace the
Adolescents, sexuality, and origins of trafficking of girls in Nepal to a
abuse history of providing young girls to the
monarch. They move on to present a
The second group of barriers to girls' critique of the current response of the
education is related to the assumption that Nepalese government and development-
their only future role is as wives and funding agencies to the shocking plight of
mothers. If there is a long distance to travel trafficked Nepalese girls. After appalling

abuse in the brothels of India and other and argues that it can enable them
'receiving' countries, increasing numbers to challenge gender relations (although in
of young girls are being returned to Nepal a limited way) within their families. They
to die of AIDS. Ostracised by their are living proof that education and
communities in poverty-stricken rural employment really can create a new
areas, many continue selling sex as their 'life-stage' for women.
sole means of livelihood.
Recognising the labour of
Young women's experience older women
of employment The world of older people - in particular,
If young girls are married in adolescence, the world of the 'old old', aged 80 and over
they become wives and mothers before they - is a predominantly female world.
can experience independent adulthood. Throughout the world, male life-expectancy
However, some do manage to break away is lower than that for women. While social
from gender norms to take up income- issues may be a factor in some contexts,
generating activities or paid employment. there is also a universal biological cause.
Two articles in this collection examine Older populations are thus predominantly
different experiences of this nature. composed of widowed females. In 1981,
Rachel Slater's article is based on research in India, the average time that a man could
into the life stories of four South African expect to be a widower was 6.2 years; for
women who migrated to Cape Town a woman, widowhood lasted an average
during different eras and with different 11.5 years (Owen 1996,148).
kinds of family ties and obligations. Two of The year 1999 was designated the
the women she talked to arrived at a young United Nations International Year for the
age and survived on their wits, 'seeking Older Person. The invisibility of older
social and financial independence from people from development debates is a
their families in the city' (Slater, this issue). grave mistake in economic and social terms:
Rachel Slater points out that young the contribution that these groups make to
unmarried women with no children are human welfare and development is huge,
able to adapt to changing economic and and could be even greater. In their article
social circumstances much better than those focusing on three low-income urban
who have responsibility for children. As a communities in Lima, Peru, Fiona C Clark
result, many employers are now recruiting and Nina Laurie state that elderly people -
young women to work in factories and and in particular women - have contributed
offices, in contexts as different as the export much to the rise of social movements in
industries of Mexico and the telephone call Peru. Their article, like two others in this
centres of Europe. While much attention collection, reflects the progress made in
has been given to exploitative wages and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean
conditions that this type of employment towards addressing the needs of older
may involve, in the eyes of the young people. In this region, it has been argued,
women workers themselves many jobs are 'perhaps the role that so many Latin
liberating. In her article, Mary Kawar of the American and Caribbean women at midlife
International Labour Organization (ILO) and older play within their families and
turns the focus away from what young within society can serve as our example and
women can offer the world of work, to our guide. Steered by this, we can pursue
what the world of work can offer young solutions that are less "medicalised", more
women. She analyses the impact of paid humanitarian, and more caring' (Guerra de
work on young women in Amman, Jordan, Macedo, in PAHO/AARP1989, viii).
However, this hope is not always solution to poverty, this does not generally
achieved. In their article, Clark and Laurie happen with older women. Older women
argue that the feminist movement in Peru are assumed either to be supported by their
has been surprisingly slow to adopt the families, or - in all post-industrialised
concerns of older women into its agenda. countries and in some 'developing'
They argue that the very same countries - to have a pension to fall back
organisations that have benefited from on. However, neither of these is a guarantee
older women's activities - and leadership in of security in later life. In situations of
the past - refuse to see them as legitimate extreme poverty, families often do not have
beneficiaries of welfare in very old age. adequate income to support an extra
In old age, as in earlier stages of life, member, and need a pension to help with
gender stereotypes operate. Women who survival: in some situations, an older
are past their childbearing years are seen as person's pension may ensure survival for
less useful and less attractive as marital their entire family. However, access to
partners. Commonly, widows are not pensions depends on one's gender identity.
allowed to marry again, but sometimes Fiona Clarke and Nina Laurie's article
(as in parts of Southern Africa) they are traces the ways in which pension reforms
'inherited' by the male relatives of the and cutbacks have affected women. They
deceased husband (Chitsike 1995). point out that the gendered division of
Inheritance laws that pass on possessions, labour makes it very hard for women to
including land, through the male line will make all the personal contributions
by-pass widows, but customary practices required of them. As a result, in Peru, 99.6
obliging relatives to support them may per cent of all those who lack their own
have been eroded, while income-generating pension and rely on that of a spouse are
opportunities may be hard to come by. women (Clarke and Laurie, this issue).
There are relatively high levels of illiteracy
among older women, and the education Countering negative
offered to generations born in the first third stereotypes of old age
of the twentieth century tended to reinforce,
rather than challenge, ideas of them as Older people themselves - and women in
wives and mothers (Owen 1996). In short, particular - are influenced by the negative
'female poverty at the end of life is a stereotypes about old age that surround
consequence of all the inequalities a woman them. In their article, Jacquie Cheetham and
has endured since birth' (ibid, 163). Wendy Alba examine a participatory
In her article, Sylvia Beales of HelpAge research exercise carried out by two
International draws on her organisation's organisations working in the Dominican
research and work around the world, to Republic. The article has several lessons for
highlight similarities in the experience of policy-makers. These include the fact that
older women in poor communities. She negative images of old age and older people
asks: 'While longevity is in many ways a abound, and that older people themselves
triumph of social development, if it means are as likely to equate positive qualities
that women and men are growing older with youth as young people are. Respect for
without becoming any less poor, and that older people is being eroded in the current
they undergo additional years of struggle era of rapid social and economic change,
and 'globalisation' of culture as well as the
for daily survival, can we really claim that
this is social progress?' (Beales, this issue).
While efforts are made by development One of the most interesting findings is
policy-makers to integrate women and girls that the older people in the Santo Domingo
living in poverty into the labour market as a study emphasised their need for education.

Most policy-makers tend to focus either on her article, arguing that work to address
the education of children, or non-formal older men's issues needs to be considered a
education or training for adults. It is clear part of 'gender and development' work.
from this article that older people have a
very clear idea of what education can do for Life histories and
them, in terms of enabling them to
contribute more to society, ensure their
own economic stability, and organise in Rachel Slater's article looks at the collecting
political groupings. The older people of life histories as a method of development
involved in this research have since become research and a way of assessing the impact
an active political force for change, of particular trends or events on various
organising classes, political activities, and people, thereby informing future
welfare support, from the first community development policy. Since society changes
centre for older women in Santo Domingo. around us, our choices are different from
Older women in the research saw their those of our mothers or daughters. In Cape
interests in terms of family wellbeing, and Town, the context of her research, the
tended not to see themselves as individuals political upheavals and legal changes of the
with separate needs. Many equated their apartheid regime meant that luck played a
needs with those of their families. In their part in determining different women's
article on urban Mexico, Maribel Blasco and chances of survival and stability. As
Ann Varley focus on the relatively high individuals, we are shaped not only by our
number of older women - one in ten of the age, gender, and other aspects of social
over-sixties - who are living alone rather identity, but also by the unique times and
than with their families or in institutions. events through which we live, at a
Older people in developing countries are particular stage of our life course.
much more likely to live with their families;
for example, in Brazil and Hong Kong, Conclusion
around half the elderly live in extended
families (United Nations 1995, 4). However, We all acquire valuable experience and
Blasco and Varley encountered some older understanding in the course of our lives,
women who seemed to prefer solitude and and this should shape development
insecurity to continuing to care for analysis and policy.
households and grandchildren into their All writers here argue that younger and
later years. older people cannot be assumed to be
Like older women, older men face dependent on the generation in-between.
difficulties rooted in social expectations of Gender analysis allows researchers and
them connected with their gender identity. policy-makers to investigate who does
Many suffer from their inability to live up what in households and communities, how
to the widespread stereotypes of them as time is used, and what different people
family breadwinners. Maribel Blasco and gain from their work. Similar methods can
Ann Varley found that people pitied older be used to determine the contribution of
men who were on their own, since they had different generations, and these must be
lost their identity as breadwinners. (Of sensitive to gender issues too. The fact that
course, it should be said that not all young children and very old people have
younger men live up to this social welfare needs must not be forgotten, but
expectation of them!) Older men who are equally it is critical to recognise the young
unable to contribute are marginalised and and the elderly - and in particular girls and
abused. Sylvia Beales also discusses this in older women - as economic contributors.
Just as women's work is made invisible by
conventional assumptions about male designed to address over-work and
breadwinners, the labour of children and exploitation, policy is needed that will
older people is obscured by social norms eradicate the extreme poverty experienced
which treat them as dependants. by many young and old people, and end
As stated above, different people gain prejudice against them.
different things from their work. Gender
and development approaches demonstrate Notes
that there is a link between the recognition
of one's contribution and the degree to 1 Gender and Development, Vol. 6, No. 2,
which one is then able to eat, rest, and - 1998, a n d Gender and Development,
crucially - participate in decision-making Vol. 6,: No. 3,1998.
at many different levels. Older people are
more commonly acknowledged than References
children to have the 'right' to participate in
decision-making, but even this is not often Chitsike C (1995) 'NGOs, gender, culture
respected in development policy and and multiculturalism: a Zimbabwean
practice. Sylvia Beaks' article lists many perspective', in Gender and Development
different suggestions for ways in which her Vol3, No.l
organisation is considering ensuring the Johnson, V, Ivan-Scott, E, Gordon,
active participation of older people in G, Pridmore, P, and Scott, P (eds) (1998)
development policy-making, to everyone's Stepping Forward: Children and young
benefit. Increasing interest in the principle people in the development process,
of involving children in development IT Publications, UK
policy-formulation can also be seen: Kurz K and Prather C (1995) Improving the
'We risk more than adversely affecting the Quality of Life of Girls, UNICEF, USA
quality of children's lives by not Leach F (1998) 'Gender, education and
listening to their voices and views. We risk training: an international perspective' in
missing out on the richness and innovative Gender and Development, Vol. 6, No. 2,
perspectives that can be offered by Oxfam GB, UK
children and young people of varying Owen M (1996) A World of Widows,
experiences and from varying situations' Zed Books, UK
(Johnson et al 1998,4). PAHO (Pan-American Health
In conclusion, it is critically important Organisation)/A ARP (American
that commitments to promoting the rights Association of Retired Persons) (1989)
of children and older people to equality Mid-Life and Older Women in Latin
and development, made during the past 15 America and the Caribbean,
years, strengthen and are strengthened by a
commitment to equality between males Sen, G and Grown, C (1987) Development,
and females. It is gender stereotypes that Crises, and Alternative Visions: Third
World Women's Perspectives, Zed Books,
send little boys into battle and banish older
men into the bush when they can no longer
be seen as breadwinners. It is gender Sohoni, NK (1995) The Burden of Girlhood:
A global inquiry into the status of girls,
stereotypes that lead older women to
Third Party Publishing Company, USA
labour inside the home, doing work that
is invisible to the outside world and United Nations (1995) The World's Women:
Trends and statistics, UN, USA
undervalued by their own families.
In addition to having this contribution
recognised and valued through policies
Why we should invest in
older women and men:
the experience of HelpAge International
Sylvia Beales
In this article, I explore the roles of older women and men in the developing world, and the barriers
they encounter in the course of contributing to their families and communities. Older women face
multiple disadvantages arising from gender-based prejudice, the heavy burden of manual and
reproductive labour that they bear, and the longevity of females in comparison to males.
Discrimination against women needs world-wide acknowledgement and action; yet, as is argued here,
it is important to broaden our analysis of gender issues. Many men, too, face marginalisation, as the
ageing process undermines their ability to provide for their families.

urrently, the world is undergoing HIV/AIDS, UN projections indicate that
profound demographic changes, deaths from AIDS will change the
which pose great challenges young-old ratio in sub-Saharan Africa from
to development and social policy-makers. 15:1 in 2000 to 4:1 in 2050 (UN 1996).
One of these changes is the growth in the For many, old age is a period of chronic
number of older people in our societies. poverty and powerlessness. Throughout the
Old age has been typically seen as a world, older people are often economically
phenomenon of developed countries, but, in poorer and suffer worse social and polit-
fact, the great majority (two-thirds) of those ical exclusion than do other age groups.
over 60 years of age live in the developing In developing countries, the problem is
world. This proportion is increasing made worse, given that large numbers of
steadily, due to improvements in health, people of all ages endure extreme poverty,
hygiene, and basic services, and will reach which affects all aspects of their material
nearly three-quarters by the 2030s (UNFPA and social existence. The cumulative effect
and CBGS 1999). The US Bureau of the of marginalisation and poverty throughout
Census (Washington DC) calculates that by the life span is absolute poverty in old age.
2020 countries such as Cuba, Argentina, While increased longevity is in many
Thailand, and Sri Lanka will have higher ways a triumph of social development, if it
proportions of older people than the US means that women and men are growing
does today. By 2025, numbers of older older without becoming any less poor, and
people in the developing world are on that they undergo additional years of
course to double to 850 million, comprising struggle for daily survival, can we really
12 per cent of the global population. claim that this is social progress?
The proportion of younger and older
people is changing dramatically. Globally, HelpAge International
the young still outnumbered the old by 7:1
in 1995, but this ratio is declining (UNFPA The information in this article comes from
1998, 13). In spite of the global challenge of research and programme experience in

many developing countries, accumulated understanding and valuing the

by HelpAge International (HAI). HAI is a contributions of women and men
world-wide network of local and national throughout their life-course that such
organisations in the developing and attitudes and their related behaviours
developed world, which works with can be altered.
disadvantaged older people on issues of
poverty, rights, and exclusion. HAI aims to Issues faced by older
make a lasting improvement to the lives of
older people, through supporting their women
empowerment, promoting their equality,
and seeking to end discrimination Everyone cares for older relatives, but women
against them. HAI is committed to the 18 do most of the work (Graham 2000)
United Nations Principles of Older Persons
stated in UN Resolution 46/91, with The fact of women's greater longevity
their headings of Independence, Care, means that the world of older people is
Self-Fulfilment, Dignity, and Participation. predominantly one of poor women, often
Attention to the gender-based widowed, who all too often face physical
discrimination facing older women - and suffering, economic disadvantage, and
men - is an essential feature of HAI's social exclusion (Heslop 1999, De Haan
programme and working practices. 1998). Women currently outlive men in
This means examining how cultural norms nearly all countries. The US Bureau of the
determine women's and men's social and Census forecasts that by 2025 the number
economic power, and analysing how that of women aged over 60 in the developing
power is inexorably reduced as people world will increase by 150 per cent.
grow older. Deep-rooted negative attitudes There are various theories to explain the
towards older people are both the cause growing difference between women and
and the symptom of the problems routinely men's longevity, which is approximately
described by those we work with. Negative 5-8 years in women's favour in the
attitudes towards older people result in developed world, and 3-5 years in the
ageism, defined by HAI as a 'collective developing world. Poverty studies in the
failure of individuals and organisations to West and parts of Eastern Europe argue
provide a professional service to people that there are genetic differences, as well
because of their age'. The HAI definition as socio-economic factors, that affect men's
continues: '[Ageism] can be detected longevity more than women's, including
in processes, attitudes, and behaviour men's greater exposure to industrial
which amount to discrimination hazards, conflict-related deaths, and
through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, lifestyle choices such as alcoholism.
thoughtlessness and stereotyping which Research (which comes in the main from
disadvantage older people' (HAI training the West) has established that older men
course 1999). An example of this is are more likely to suffer from heart disease
the characterisation of older people or a stroke than women, and are more
as dependants. In fact, HelpAge likely to die from chronic respiratory
International's participatory research in disease than women (WHO 1999).
countries as different as St Lucia, Ghana, Older people themselves acknowledge
and South Africa has revealed that the that it is older women who are the most
majority of older people are net vulnerable, especially if they are widowed,
contributors to their families, rather than childless, and in declining health. As an
net recipients of support. It is only by older woman from Bangladesh put it
Why we should invest in older women and men 11

during HAI research, 'We are poor, we are reproductive labour into very old age
old, we are women - so no one wants us. We are (Graham 2000). In many contexts, older
alone' (HelpAge et al. 2000). women have a special responsibility
In HAI's experience, the concerns voiced for family care, including caring for
by older women are similar to those of the 'old old', and the sick and disabled.
younger women. These are to maintain the HAI's experience is that older women can
good health of themselves and their family, demonstrate remarkable flexibility in
and to provide for their own and their adapting this role to new economic and
family's economic security, and their own social conditions. For example, they may
care needs. Good health is critical for take on additional care burdens for
survival, and illness is expensive. However, grandchildren, caused by the absence
a lifetime spent battling against the effects or death of their children (for example,
of poor nutrition, violence, onerous through changing migration practices, or
working conditions, multiple pregnancies, AIDS-related death), or changes in family
and lack of education means that many structures caused by conflict and natural
women are already in declining health disasters. In addition, older women often
when they reach old age. The burden of organise themselves into groups, and
caring for the old still falls on female family become involved in community activities.
members, often on women who are Older women may be rewarded for their
themselves ageing and in failing health. industry by their children: in Ghana, for
Most older women continue to work example, they have reported that their
into very old age: for personal survival, to contribution was recognised by their being
support others, and for pleasure. Research made the guardians of valuable cloth and
in various contexts from Asia, Africa, and seeds (Ahenkora 1999). However, in other
Latin America confirms that older women cases, women may find themselves cast out.
do not want to be dependent on their Inheritance laws that exclude women have
children or to cause them anxiety (Sim and a pernicious effect on older women, who
Ree 1997, in the context of Korea). Many forfeit land-based assets on being widowed.
spend more time working than the men in A respondent in the HelpAge International
their communities. Participatory research research in Bangladesh put the issue very
in Zanzibar, Tanzania, recorded that the starkly: 'If the house burns, residue remains; if
daily rest period of older men in the the husband dies, nothing remains'
community was approximately seven (HAI/BAAIGM et al 2000).
hours. In comparison, older women were Religion and culture can also conspire to
occupied during those hours with multiple isolate older women, as a woman's status in
tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, fetching many societies is very dependent on having
firewood, child-care, and pounding grain. a husband, and divorce or widowhood can
Despite this, older women received few lead to a woman spending the rest of her
material benefits and had less control lifetime in misery (Owen 1999). Older
and ownership over income-generating widows rarely have the opportunity to
activities than the men (Forrester 1999). marry again, and so their lives may be
In addition to producing food or earning consigned to loneliness and much greater
income themselves., many older women dependence on their children. Since they
perform reproductive work at home, can no longer produce children, they may
thereby freeing other family members to have also lost a major 'function' in the eyes
work outside the home. HAI participatory of society (Forrester 1999). It is socially
research in Lao revealed that older women acceptable in most cultures for men
continue to carry the greater burden of to marry younger women, and this may

lead to older wives being abandoned. suggests that men's power is conferred by
In Tanzania, women rarely take their cases this productive capacity. The studies show
to court, for fear of reprisal and ridicule that the status that accompanies men's
(ibid). productive role does not automatically
In HAI's experience, most of the older transfer to the older man. A report from
people who live alone are women. Bolivia, from organisations working with
For example, in our research in Laos the HAI, states that older men who are no
figure was 73 per cent. Such women can longer producing a recognised income for
experience extreme destitution. One older the household are given 'the smallest plate
woman in Laos told the research team: of food and left outside the house in the
'It is hard for me to come and meet with you for cold for hours'. In Bangladesh, a story is
three days, because I have to go to the forest to told of a disabled grandfather who is being
find food to eat and sell. If I don't go, I won't removed from the family home in a basket
have any food to eat' (Graham 2000, 27). by the son, so that the 'burden' of the old
In Tanzania, witchcraft was raised as a man can be disposed of in the forest.
key issue for older widows living alone: On seeing this, the grandson observes,
'The solitude of a widow brings additional 'Father, please be sure to bring back the basket'.
problems - if she is not seen much about On being asked why by the father,
the village, an air of mystery may grow up the grandson replies: 'Because I will need it
around her, which contributes strongly to when you grow old' (HAI/BAAIGM et al
accusations of being a witch. ... they are 2000,15).
alone, so have no support to ward off the This story justifies the anxiety of many
accusations, they are weak and vulnerable, older men as they become increasingly less
they are poor, so do not have resources to able to earn income. Employers may be
fight, they are often seen as being cleverer unwilling to hire an older man, who may
than older men, they often have physical be illiterate and lack documentation (ibid).
signs of being a witch, for example Older men's ability to set up in business
red eyes,1 wrinkles, bags under the eyes, is often curtailed by age-related
twisted limbs, gnarled hands' (Forrester discrimination on the part of credit
1999, 53). providers. Despite this, older men are often
still financially responsible for younger
Issues facing older men family members. In both South Africa and
Bangladesh, old age was defined by older
While many projects in HAI's international men in HAI research as increasing
programme explicitly target older women, dependency on others, due to physical
both as 'clients' and as agents of change, limitations (such as loss of eyesight),
we have not to date been sufficiently declining mobility, and failing health, all
thorough in applying a gender analysis to of which make it difficult for them to
men's experience of ageing. contribute economically (HAI/BAAIGM
The economic roles assigned to males et al 2000; Mohatle and Agyarko 1999).
from early youth mean that the loss of All HAI's studies reveal that older men
earning power has serious consequences experience feelings of rejection when they
for men's position in society. In youth and are no longer able to earn income.
middle age, many men are household In addition, older men do not seem to
heads, and are seen (accurately or not) as be as adaptable to changing situations as
the main breadwinners for their families. women. An interesting aspect of HAI's
Evidence from HAI participatory research Ghana study is its analysis of the collapse
and project experience in all regions of the mono-crop, cocoa, and the
Why we should invest in older women and men 13

traumatising effect that this has had on Some research suggests that the tendency
older men. Older men still see a revitalised of men of all ages not to develop support
cocoa industry as the way out of their structures among friends and community,
economic plight, while older women are as women do, results in greater exclusion
busily making headway in agriculture and of older men than women (Sheldon and
petty trading (Ahenkora 1999). In the 1990s Van Ommeren 1999).
in the Russian Federation, rapid social and
economic change, community breakdown,
and financial insecurity, including
Development responses to
declining pension payments, have
age and exclusion
triggered alcoholism among many older Most international development
men. Male life-expectancy fell from 65 to 58 programmes fail to support older women
between 1987 and 1994 (Gorman 1999). and men as they make their substantial
Ironically, while older women's economic and social contributions. Indeed,
economic contributions are often policy-makers are often unaware that older
underrated, by themselves and their people - particularly women - make a
community and family, they are accepted contribution at all. This lack of basic
as retaining a useful role for longer than knowledge leads to flawed policy-making.
men, in that they are able and willing Our experience is that it is rare for older
to continue reproductive work in the people to be included in any discussion
household, which is essential for family about issues that affect them directly.
survival. Older men have difficulty in A widow aged 71, invited to an HAI
shifting their activities to these functional, research meeting in Bangladesh, stated:
household roles, owing to stigma, lack of 'This is the first time I have been in a meeting
confidence, or cultural barriers associated like this. I want to do it again' (HAI research
with performing 'women's work'. Those report 1999, unpublished). This is a refrain
who do make the adjustment may be that we commonly hear in HelpAge
rewarded with care and prestige, as is the International. There is a tendency among
case in communities where elderly men are policy-makers, development workers,
left to care for orphans whose parents have younger people - and often some older
died of AIDS (Gurmessa 1999). people themselves - to assume that older
Older men are more likely to live with a people can have their concerns met
spouse when they reach old age, due to through some form of welfare service.
women's longer life-expectancy in most However, this is often very far from the
regions and the accepted social practice of needs and wishes of older people
older men marrying younger women. themselves. As an older Rwandan woman
However, when they are frail, the care they said to us during research on older people
receive may not be appropriate, and there in emergencies: 'Why don't the agencies
is little research in developing countries to support our projects? This would be much
explore this question. Chronic conditions better than us waiting for them to bring things
linked to the natural ageing process, such to us. We want our projects to keep moving and
as incontinence and dementia, may growing - we can look after ourselves'
precipitate the abandonment and abuse of (HAI/UNHCR/ECHO 1999,40).
men. Research in St Lucia points out that How should support be offered? In the
more older men beg for a living than analysis of women's and men's experience
older women, and that they are less likely of old age given above, it is clear that
to be supported by their offspring than older people experience social and
older women (HAI 2000, forthcoming). economic exclusion in the areas of health

and material security/social status. Agyarko 1999). In such cases, the economic
Tensions between generations may result in support to the extended family given by the
violence and abuse, and violation of their pension raises the self-esteem and status of
human rights. pension-holders as providers to the family.
South African respondents told us: 'We are
Health important to our families when we get our
Declining health and chronic pensions.' However, others told us that the
impoverishment are huge barriers that pension can 'expose older persons to abuse by
daily confront older women and men unscrupulous and uncaring family members'
in their struggle to survive and fulfil (ibid).
their obligations. The exclusion and
powerlessness associated with ageing Tensions between generations
affect both women's and men's ability to The quotations above illustrate how chronic
interact with service providers, officials, poverty and socio-economic change is
and family members on key questions placing increasing pressures on traditional
regarding welfare entitlements and care family-based reciprocity. As a young
issues. For example, the principle of State woman interviewed in HAI's Lao study
provision of essential drugs for older pointed out, poverty is the critical problem.
people is meaningless if older people 'Sometimes we have to care for our in-laws as
cannot reach health centres. Even if they do well as our parents. Taking care of much older
manage to get there, many older people are parents is very difficult - harder because we are
simply misdiagnosed or not treated, and very poor and do not have enough food'
simple, cheap, and effective operations, (Graham 2000, 22).
such as cataract removal to restore sight, Demographic change increases strains
are not routinely done. Gender-based on hard-pressed family-support structures,
discrimination means that women in as falling fertility rates combine with
particular have great difficulties in increasing longevity. The impact of
accessing and paying for modern medical phenomena such as HIV/AIDS, conflict-
care; older men tend not to seek medical induced migration, and refugee
help until there is a crisis. Older people the resettlement has changed the expectations
world over are likely to rely more than and behaviour of older and younger
younger people on traditional remedies; people. Rapid urbanisation and migration
although these may be expensive and are for work have begun significantly to alter
not always effective, they have the family and community relationships. Urban
advantage of being accessible and can be living, with its restrictions on physical
paid for in kind, when resources are space, makes the close proximity of a
available (Ahenkora 1999). relatively large number of family members
of different generations more problematic.
Material security and social status Older people have to cope with changes
Some of the barriers preventing older in social status and changing attitudes to
women and men producers from accessing older men (and women in some cultures),
income are outlined in earlier sections. who were often regarded in the past
In countries that provide old-age pensions, as a source of wisdom and knowledge.
this is often the most important source of A common complaint in the Tanzania
income for older men and women. In some research was that, these days, older people
contexts, including South Africa, the had 'less support from the family and the
pension is increasingly the economic community' (Forrester 1999, 60). But it has
mainstay of the entire family (Mohatle and to be recognised that responsibility for the
Why we should invest in older women and men 15

care of older people is falling on fewer of older people in social and economic
children, and the impact is felt most by development, and progress will be
those with least resources. considered in the follow-up conference
These changes require flexibility and recently agreed for 2002 in Spain.
adaptation of older people, whose The United Nations Social Summit of 1995
expectations of what would happen in old agreed an overarching priority to
age may be turned upside down by forces achieve 'a society for all', and affirmed
beyond their control. Adaptation through that economic development, social
training is hindered by high rates of development, and environmental
illiteracy; the general lack of attention to the protection for all people are interdependent
importance of education for older people is and mutually reinforcing components of
a further factor compounding exclusion sustainable development. The most positive
and discrimination. trend - and accompanying challenge -
during the 1990s was the progressive
Violence and abuse recognition, by all ratifying governments,
The nature and extent of the violence and of the 1986 United Nations Declaration on
abuse of older people by younger the Right to Development for all people,
generations is only just becoming known. regardless of age, gender, religion, class,
Abuse of older women by older men, nationality, and ethnic groupings. The 1999
reflecting a lifetime of gender inequality, is report of the High Commissioner for
also being recorded. Older survivors of Human Rights centred its argument on the
abuse are reluctant to come forward, importance of governments working to
because much of the abuse happens within make measurable progress on recognising
the domestic environment, and they are this right. The Beijing Declaration
both ashamed and afraid to disclose (UN 1995) provided an opportunity for
evidence (personal communication, 1999). older women, by urging an approach to
Spurred on by the extreme example of development that was explicitly inclusive
witchcraft-related atrocities, social policy of women of all ages (paras 8, 32, 34).
makers are only just beginning to track However, the poverty of older women
how abuse and violence is often linked to and'men is still not included as a core
declining status and the barriers concern in the social, economic, and ethical
encountered in contributing to family debates of our time. The 1999 report of the
survival. Abuse may take a number of United Nations High Commissioner for
forms. Physical abuse may include not only Human Rights (UN 1999) did not mention
injury but also malnutrition or the age-based poverty, or the vulnerabilities of
withholding of physical care. Psychological older women and men; likewise, age-
abuse, such as threats, verbal assault, or related issues struggle for room in the
isolation, may be used even where physical current preparations for the historic
violence is absent. Indeed, in Chile, Millennium Summit of the United Nations,
attitudes among the younger public and in September 2000.
policy-makers that exclude older people
and contribute to their vulnerability are
considered to be a form of abuse (Lowick The way forward
and Avalos 1999, 22). A first step would be to recognise the rights
of older people. HelpAge International is
Denial of basic human rights asking that the rights and contributions of
In 1982, the Vienna Plan of Action on older women and men be specifically
Ageing set specific targets for the inclusion acknowledged in the agreements of United

Nations conferences of recent years. We are Older people doing

also suggesting that the specific rights of development
older people be developed into a legal
charter to form part of the body of Analysis and planning for development
international rights-based agreements, programmes should involve older people
drawing on the key 'Principles' for Older themselves. Sensitivity to gender, culture,
Persons mentioned at the start of this language, and tradition must be built in to
article, in UN Resolution 46/91. this work. HAI is supporting a portfolio of
Older people's immense contribution to projects throughout the world to enable
social and economic development needs to impoverished older women and men,
be acknowledged. The key policy question who often have little formal education,
facing development policy-makers today is to become successful community-based
not what should we do about older people?, but gerontologists, educators, para-legal
what would the rest of us do without them? workers, teachers, nutritionists, organisers
Both socially and economically, can we of full-scale emergency-relief programmes,
really afford to ignore their contributions and community activists.
any longer? Policy-makers must recognise It makes economic sense, as well as
that investment in the productive and being good development, to invest in
social capacities of older women and men is schemes run and managed by older people
likely to yield far-reaching results in terms - and HAI is collecting data to show this.
of community welfare and economic For example, HAI research in Juba,
return. southern Sudan, has shown that
In general, basic research with and community work targeting older people in
about older people needs much this region of armed conflict has enabled
improvement. As this article has shown, relief aid to be targeted very effectively.
research that involves the participation of The distribution of essential non-food items
older people themselves reveals quite was an incentive for older people to come
different realities from those assumed together and begin a dialogue between
hitherto by policy-makers. In particular, the them and partner non-government
views and needs of older women need to be organisations (NGOs). The participation of
taken into account in research or policy in a older people in the relief programme
systematic way. For example, HAI research supported their empowerment, as the
has revealed that, while all older persons programme scaled up to reach over 2000
fare very badly in emergencies, older more people than originally envisaged, and
women's cultural, social, and health needs older people themselves managed major
are often blatantly ignored - despite the elements of this work, including brick
critical role that they can and do play in manufacture, the construction of houses
keeping fragmented families together, and and pit-latrines, and the management of
in rebuilding lives in the aftermath of crisis. committees. Awareness was raised about
Research and action on age-sensitive and the abilities, rights, and capacities of older
gender-sensitive health and nutrition people across all sectors of civil society and
issues, the needs of older people, and government. The programme has now
appropriate strategies to deal with them are evolved from an emergency intervention to
deficient everywhere, particularly in the a more sustainable development process,
developing world (Peachey 1999). which has older people at its centre
(Ageways, October 1999).
Why we should invest in older women and men 17

In general, greater numbers of older Sylvia Beales is Policy Development Manager

women tend to be involved in HAI's at HelpAge International, 67-74 Saffron Hill,
project work than older men, although men London EC1N 8QX, UK.;
can and do become involved. For example,
a Council of Venerable Old Persons has
been formed in Bolivia from a group of
male beggars who organised themselves to Notes
demand legal documentation; the council
has female and male members now. 1 Red eyes are caused by a lifetime of
Male and female authority conferred by cooking over smoky fires.
conventional assumptions about gender
relations, as well as long life and References
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humanitarian and development work. International, UK
In advocacy for change, HAI's Ahenkora, K (1999), The Contributions of
experience is that change more readily Older People to Development, the Ghana
comes about when older people organise Study, HelpAge International and
into groups to make their own voices HelpAge Ghana, available from HAI
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such organisation has led to significant Vejez, Orientaciones Generales para su
advances at both grassroots and policy- Investigacion Centro de Capacitacion
making levels of society. Older people have (CEC) Study Document 1, Chile
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activities as legal documentation, an alternative concept for the study of
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Conclusion People in Tanzania, HelpAge
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The key to change is to re-orientate from HAI)
development and social policy, so that they Gorman, M (1999), 'The situation of older
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principles of reciprocity and equity' (UNIS HelpAge International, (publication
1995). This is not to deny the rights of other forthcoming, available from HAI)
vulnerable groups, but to seek inclusion of Gurmessa M (1999), 'Social Effects of Aids
a critical part of the world's population that on the Elderly', unpublished report,
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and the European Community UN, USA
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Heslop, A (1999), Ageing and Development, Ageing: Exploding the myths, Ageing and
DFID Working Paper No.3, DFID,UK Health
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la Vejez, Orientaciones Generales para su
Investigacion, Centro de Capacitacion
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Development, the South Africa Study,
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Zed Press, UK
Peachey, K (1999), Ageism - A Factor in the
Nutritional Vulnerability of Older People
HAI/ODI (report available from HAI)
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Portraits of Ageing Women, Wemos
Foundation, Amsterdam, The
'At my age I should be
sitting under that tree':
the impact of AIDS on Tanzanian
lakeshore communities
Judith Appleton
In 1992, the author led a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) exercise for a community fisheries
project in Kagera region, on the western side of Lake Victoria, Tanzania. The PRA team visited four
settlements: the prime harbour settlement on Kerebe Island; N'toro beach, in Bukoba district, near
the Ugandan border; Chamkwikwi landing site in Muleba district; and Buzirayombo bay settlement
in Biharamulo district in the south. This article draws on that research, to give an outsider's
analysis of the ways in which AIDS was changing livelihoods in poor fishing and farming
communities.1 On the lakeshore and islands, adults were falling ill and dying. This loss of men and
women in their prime was causing major economic and social stresses for the single parents,
grandparents, and orphans whom we met. They showed resilience and adaptability in the face of this
threat to their already precarious livelihoods. The article ends by suggesting ways in which
development policy makers and practitioners should support livelihoods in the era of AIDS.

ake Victoria has long supported an bays. Twenty-five years later, this
artisanal fishing industry, and fish- carnivorous, deep-dwelling species not only
processing and marketing activities dominated the catch of fish in the lake, but
which extend far beyond its shores. had also consumed most of the other
Throughout East Africa, the work of species (including haplochromis, cichlids, and
catching, drying, selling, and transporting tilapia) in the depths of the shallow lake.
the small dagaa (L. rastrineobola argentea) However, it has not affected the dagaa,
provides a variety of ways of making an which are a surface species.
income. Ultimately, the dagaa ensures a
tasty relish for eating with maize-meal, or
nsima. Along the way, it provides a means Livelihoods in Kagera
of support to many: the lakeshore farmers The appearance of the giant perch may
who share-crew on the boats (similar to have been a disaster for all those palates -
share-cropping on land); the women who local and farther afield - that were fond of
are involved in processing the fish and the succulent though bony cichlids and
gathering grass for the drying-beds; the tilapia; but it was a boon to poor Haya cash-
general and specialised traders; the casual croppers.
labourers; and all kinds of large- and small- Haya people were originally
scale entrepreneurs along the supply chain. pastoralists, who were living in this area
Other native species of fish, including prior to colonisation in the mid-nineteenth
haplochromis and tilapia, are sun-dried or century. The colonial regime introduced
smoked on wood or grass, and have also coffee cultivation to Bukoba and Muleba, in
been part of the lake's fish trade. the hilly north, and cotton in the flatter,
Around 1970, the giant Nile perch found hotter southern part of Muleba. Haya men
its way to Lake Victoria from the lakes in became cash-croppers, relying on their
the north, where it had first been wives to produce the maize and banana
introduced in the 1960s. It spread to all staples for the family. At first, they were
parts of Lake Victoria, except the shallow little involved in the fisheries, which were

small-scale and a minority occupation on the industry to supplement their

before the advent of the Nile perch. farming incomes.
Subsequently, the money to be earned from Meanwhile, the makings of another
the growing perch-fishing activity led them disaster - that of AIDS - were already
to turn their hand to this developing present in the area. Eight years on, there are
industry, which relied on many related one million AIDS cases in Tanzania, and
occupations from boat building and gear 940,000 people have already died. Since the
production, through fish-processing, to beginning of the epidemic, 730,000 children
trade. The incomes gained from these have lost both their parents to AIDS
activities sustained lakeshore families and, (Hivinsite, 12 May 2000).
in addition, provided money for small-scale
investment in agricultural activities.
Factors contributing to HIV
The economic viability of this livelihood,
combining fishing and agricultural
activities, relies on adult men taking the In addition to the fisheries boom-and-bust
main role in boat-fishing, and adult women culture, there were other significant
taking responsibility for farming. structural and institutional factors
In 1992, at the time of the PRA exercise contributing to a high prevalence of HIV
on which this article is based, most infection in Kagera. (It should be pointed
lakeshore fishermen (and even most boat- out that in PRA sessions, people mentioned
owners) to whom we spoke regarded their various factors in addition to the economic
farms as the family's mainstay. They went and social factors mentioned below. There
fishing when they were not needed for were rumours in Kagera that suggested a
heavy work on the farm, and used their pay wish to explain the AIDS epidemic as an
to buy clothes for the family, or agricultural outside influence: for example, that medical
equipment. The fish they kept were used blood supplies came from the army and the
for the family pot, or given to fellow prisons, where no HIV /AIDS screening
villagers, to cement friendly relations. was carried out.)
The exceptions, who lived exclusively on A key factor is the pattern of temporary
their labour from fishing, were single men, migration of male fishers to settlements by
most at the prime harbour settlement of the lake. Since perch-fishing began,
Kerebe Island. temporary fishing camps of grass huts and
At the time of the research, the average sheds have grown up seasonally on the
size of the Nile perch being caught in Lake lakeshore, with predominantly male
Victoria was declining. This indicated a populations. Male labour relies, for food,
decrease in perch population. Another sign drink and sexual services, on cafes, tea-
was the resurgence of the cichlids and other shops, and bars, largely run by women.
species, which was already being Each camp is associated with particular
welcomed by local people: these fish are farming communities, which may be at a
preferred to the oily and relatively tasteless distance of up to 15 kilometres from the
perch, and their reappearance restored shore. Some of the population of the camps
culinary variety. However, the decrease in - particularly on the islands in the lake -
the perch population was a potential threat consists of migrant and casual labourers
to livelihoods: not only to the profits from from farther away. The potential for the
perch-fishing, processing (smoking and spread of HIV infection is obvious.
salting), and legal and illegal trading, but to Kagera borders Uganda's Rakai
feeder occupations. Disaster loomed over province, where HIV prevalence among
the majority of lake-fishers, who depended young working adults in trading centres
The impact of AIDS on Tanzanian lakeshore communities 21

and rural areas was found to be high in or a birth. Before marriage, a Haya girl
1989: 43 per cent among men in their might have sexual experience deriving from
twenties, and 52 per cent among women of this rule of hospitality, but pre-marital
the same age-group (Barnett and Blaikie pregnancy was not tolerated. Consequently,
1992, 32). In Rakai, the Ganda people's Haya girls have been married off young, to
patterns of frequent and diverse sexual prevent them being drowned or ostracised
relationships, including transient ones, have should they become pregnant before
been a widely acknowledged factor in the marriage. As recently as the 1950s, early
rapid spread of HIV infection. A similar marriage was also a defence against girls
pattern of sexual behaviour is a feature of being taken to be concubines to the 'royal'
the lives of Kagera's Haya population. lineages (Pratt, personal communication)
A Haya woman traditionally occupies an In the 1920s and 1930s, significant
inferior position in the household. Until the numbers of Haya women found a way
middle of the twentieth century, her to escape daily drudgery and their
subservience was rendered visible in the subjugation to husbands and chiefs.
heavy metal ankle rings that restricted her While some girls and women found havens
mobility. Traditionally, she was secluded in Christian missions, others turned their
for eight months after marriage, and fed a experience of sex with different partners,
restricted non-protein diet, allegedly to born of subservience in marriage, to
control her sexuality as well as to teach her economic benefit. Making use of the new
generally to mind her place in the family road, steamer, and rail links to travel, Haya
and society. That place included accepting women became known as among the more
social, economic, and legal dependence, desirable, and best organised, commercial
polygamy, and marital violence, and sex workers in urban areas throughout East
showing deference to the men in the Africa. A contributory factor to the
household. A Haya man might divorce a enterprise of prostitution may well have
wife for many reasons, including lack of a been a spirit-medium movement
male heir, adultery, or sexually transmitted (embandwa), which has not completely
disease (Pratt, personal communication). disappeared among Haya women, and
Together with growing food crops provided a focus for their resistance to
(while her husband tended the livestock, male and royal control of their behaviour
and later grew cash-crops and fished), the and fertility, exempted them from
bearing of children was a Haya woman's field-work, and freed them to travel, to
main role in marriage. However, these dance, and to charge fees for their services
children might be the fruit of unions with (Pratt, personal communication)
other men within her husband's family or The PRA revealed that gender relations
with friends, instigated by her husband or have changed significantly since then:
his relatives, rather than her own idea, material, social, and economic
which would have been cause for divorce. developments have increased Haya
Fathers-in-law had rights to sexual relations women's opportunities to determine their
with their sons' new wives on the first night own lives, and have transformed many
of marriage, and there was a common traditional relationships. Haya woman may
practice of wife-sharing with other male now divorce their husbands, and these days
relatives of the husband, and as hospitality the majority of women-instigated divorces
to the household's male visitors. are on grounds of husbands' neglect or
The children might even be claimed by the inability to support the household.
biological fathers according to bisisi - the However, much still survives: not least, the
right of first intercourse after menstruation sexual legacy. Many Haya women are still

commercial sex workers; some have earned productive activities), by sale of other
enough to support their families back home assets, and by the spending of savings,
and buy their own land. Participants in the and /or remittances from absent fishermen,
PRA told us that other former sex workers on household survival. The need to care for
have returned to Kagera and appear to anyone with AIDS-related illnesses leads to
have avoided AIDS; they are heading their an increase in household expenditure on
own households, and frequently rank medical treatment, transport, and special
among the better-off in the community. foods.
This cycle not only spells a descent into
The impact of AIDS on deeper poverty throughout the region, but
livelihoods in Kagera is further exacerbated by the social and
economic stigma experienced by relatives
The next section moves beyond a health- of people known to have AIDS. The issue
related focus on sexual behaviour and HIV of stigma came up in the PRA that we
transmission to examine the impact of carried out in Biharamulo. The fact that
AIDS-related illness and death on the Biharamulo is the one district out of the
livelihoods of fisher-farmer households. four that we visited with a lower Haya
In particular, it considers the impact of the population may suggest there is less stigma
deaths of young and middle-aged adults of attached to AIDS in Haya villages.
both sexes on the economic survival of
household members, who are pre- Direct costs
dominantly elderly people and children. Women in the villages to which N'toro
Overall, the impact of AIDS illness and fishermen belong told us that the costs of
death on livelihoods in Kagera is in many care during illness were minimal, since
respects similar to that in other rural 'There are no medicines ... well, the clinic's
settings of sub-Saharan Africa. The loss of closed. The sick ones are just weak, have no
adults in the prime of life leads to serious appetite and sit around indoors. And the men
labour shortages for fishing and farming, in don't bring in money or fish. That's much
addition to child-care and household worse.' The women were far freer with their
maintenance. The symbiosis between male- comments than the men, some of whom
dominated fishing and female-dominated were now single parents. One woman said:
farming, on which household survival 'A husband with AIDS is worse than a lazy
depends, ceases if adults of either sex fall ill husband, because you can't divorce him -
or die. More dependants rely on a smaller it's not his fault.' Women we met at the
number of productive family members. clinic in Biharamulo claimed that there
The decline in the productive (and were medical costs, but could not specify
reproductive) capacity of the household how much.
leads to a loss of fishery income, a knock-
on loss of investment in the farm and /or Food security and diets
reduced agricultural production, and The local porridge (matoke) is made of
changes to agricultural decisions because of plantain and beans: it contained relatively
a need to save labour (for example, which fewer beans in the poorer households we
crops to grow, or whether to leave land visited, and these families also eat fish
fallow). This in turn leads to a general infrequently. The effect on a family's food
decline in household income and access of a combination of reduced income,
to food. This needs to be made up by the labour-saving cropping, and limited access
sale of fishing or farming equipment to fish, is clearly poorer diets. Poor diets in
(in turn constraining the remaining turn reduce resistance to any infection.
The impact of AIDS on Tanzanian lakeshore communities 23

One woman in Muleba told us that she bladders, in boats that make the run under
had a friend caring for a sick brother, who cover of night to evade the coastguards.
was being advised by a clinic supported by By contrast, in lakeshore N'toro, there
a foreign HIV/AIDS project to buy and were children with their fathers and
prepare food for him that she could not brothers on the beach, watching the
afford for her children. Her friends thought landings and helping to hold the nets
she should feed the children better instead. during mending. There were also several
quite elderly men who were not just
Changes in the inter-generational mending nets (a usual activity for older
division of labour men) but also crewing and engaged in
There were striking differences in the com- beach-seining (shore-based fishing)
position of the fisher populations in
the camps on Kerebe Island, and those Case study 1: a grandparent-headed
in the village and on the beach at N'toro, household
the northernmost camp we visited. One of the elderly men on the shore at
In Kerebe harbour, the 'boom-town' of N'toro took us to meet his equally elderly
perch-fishing, the beach was crowded with wife, who was making reed mats in a
energetic fishermen. Their usual behaviour shelter along the beach, while looking after
was to leap out of their boats, grab their three grandchildren, including a toddler.
pay, and make straight for the pombe Their son and daughter-in-law had died
(banana home-brew) bars until the next recently of AIDS. The grandparents were
day. Because Kerebe is the most lucrative doing full-time child-care: she provided the
place to fish and to offer fishing labour, secure base, while he kept the older ones
there is a constant flow of young male amused and busy. They had found it
labourers through the harbour town of impossible to replace the labour of their son
Furuza, some of whom have left wives or and daughter-in-law in the boat and on the
parents to take care of children and farms farm, since the old man was not sprightly
on the lakeshore. and the old woman had a bad leg. 'I should
On Kerebe, there are few children, social be sitting under that tree at my age, not
structures are undeveloped, and there is no working in the sun,' said the old man. 'All
police force. However, the island - and the this will drive me to an early grave, but not as
settlement of Furuza in particular - is run early as my son, I guess.'
like a feudal realm, controlled by four The solution for the extended family
'perch lords' and their retainers. The perch had been for the grandparents to move in
lords have offices on the hillsides with a daughter, in the same village.
overlooking the harbour, where they own They had enlarged her house, and with the
bars as well as boats and equipment money that the old man made from the
enterprises. We were told in PRA sessions fishing and the old woman earned from her
that labour laws were brushed aside here: mats their daughter was able to hire labour
the perch lords hire and fire at will, to maintain both her own land and half that
profiting both from the abundant catches in belonging formerly to the dead son and
the middle of the lake, and from the low daughter-in-law. She was able to provide
wages that they are able to pay. Few all of them with maize and plantains.
labourers actually complain, because of the The village chief's spokesman told us that
widespread desperation that drives people the old couple had been allowed to use
out here to subsist for a season. Some are their son's land after his death, since the
even persuaded to take part in the illegal village had plenty of land. He said the
export trade to Uganda of the prized perch problem for the elders was to make sure

that enough land was being cultivated to the shore, dropped it, and rowed back,
feed everyone, particularly in that year pulling the end into an arc against the
when cash-crop (coffee) prices were low. current, while the beach team on the other
This way of living was just adequate to end was composed of a line-up of adults
ensure the extended family's survival until and children, in order of decreasing size.
the next death, or until the old man or The youngest involved were around ten
woman was unable to continue to work. years old. As the net came in, the larger fish
were picked out and went to the men,
Case study 2: a child-headed household while the boys got smaller ones, according
On N'toro beach we also met a household to both their stature and the contribution
consisting of orphan boys, the eldest of they had made to pulling the net in. The
whom was 14. They had chosen to live on formula was working: there was little
their own. The village chief's spokesman squabbling.
told us that orphans were generally taken
in by relatives or neighbours, but there Women, widowhood, and changes in the
were more and more of them, and he did gender division of labour
not know how families would cope if it Many changes in the gendered division of
continued, even though orphaned children labour are likely when Haya women are
could offer their labour for farming. widowed and take on household headship.
The orphaned teenager household-head Colonial legislation of 1944 has acquired a
had been taken on in his dead father's place new importance in the context of men's
in the 'best' boat in N'toro (the only one deaths from AIDS. This legislation
whose owner had acquired an engine for recognised Haya women's right to inherit
it). The boy was delighted to have been their husbands' farmland. At the time it
taken on, although he was only getting was passed, the legislation was likely to
half-pay, and he had to wrestle with the have been a measure intended to forestall
other crew for his share of the landed catch. destitution among women who were losing
The boat-owner would not talk to us. access to land, since this was being
The older man mentioned in the case study increasingly occupied by men for use as
above commented that the boat-owner had coffee plantations (Pratt, personal
been reluctant to take on the boy, since he communication).
wanted experienced men in the boat now In contrast, non-Haya women from
that it was powered to take them farther Mwanza, whom we met on Kerebe Island,
out on the lake, but he had bowed to told us of the emotional distress and
community pressure. He commented that economic destitution caused by their in-
the boy was one of many who were laws claiming the estate of the women's
desperate to work and, since the boat- deceased husbands - including the
owner had to finance his engine, it was not children, as well as land and material
surprising that he wasn't giving money possessions. We noted that non-Haya
away in higher wages. women were now working in other parts of
The local jobbing fishermen had taken the fisheries industry: for example, Kerebe
their own initiative vis-a-vis the gang of Island boasted a fish-smoking enterprise
younger boys on the beach who had lost owned and run by women. Haya women
fathers and needed fish for their suppers. are restricted to selected parts of fish-
They had worked out a formula to processing, reflecting the strict gender
incorporate them into the work of beach- division of labour of their pastoralist
seining and to share the catch with them. past, when men cared for the livestock
The men rowed one end of the net out from and women were restricted to milking.
The impact of AIDS on Tanzanian lakeshore communities 25

From our observations, fish-cleaning for numbers of women turning to it to meet

smoking, and the smoking itself, is their subsistence needs. There are wide
men's work. variations in the money to be made from
On Kerebe, a female boat-owner (a non- the activity: in spring and summer,
Haya divorcee based in Mwanza) the price is low while grass is abundant;
commented that, for Haya women, in autumn and winter, a higher price
'trade and industry are not really their sort of reflects scarcity. We witnessed tussles going
thing'. Her suggestion that Haya women's on between the perch lords' retainers, who
investments were concentrated in land and were setting fire to the grasslands to
in the tea-shop sector was borne out in all generate better growth, and women
four sites we visited. On Kerebe, it was desperately trying to smother the fires and
Haya women making a livelihood from cut the grass before it caught fire.
sexual exchange: fishermen in the bar that Shoreline work on dagaa fish-drying is
some of the PRA team patronised told them limited to a maximum of ten days a month,
that there was a brisk demand for Haya since fishing dagaa takes place only during
'wives', contracted for the season. the dark quarter of the moon. This work
In Biharamulo, Haya divorcees returning consists of grass-cutting and supply, by
from the sex industry in Dar es Salaam and women, and the spreading, turning, and
elsewhere were also accused of bringing collecting of the fish, by men. The only
AIDS back with them, but this type of exception to this division of labour that we
remark was not made to us in the more encountered was in a family enterprise on
predominantly Haya districts of Muleba Kerebe Island, where a woman was helping
and Bukoba. her sick husband with the turning and
The female boat-owner mentioned collecting. She told us that this would
above was visiting Kerebe to supervise the maximise earnings from the catch as long as
hiring of labour and the negotiations over he was well enough to go out fishing, but
shares for the season for her boat's crew. that she would subsequently have to find
She told us that it had been tough hanging cash to buy fish for her family.
on to assets from her marriage, but tougher
still finding that she was excluded from
much of the networking that goes on
Does AIDS herald
among the owners of boats: all the rest were
male. She thought there were unlikely to be AIDS is a tragedy for the individual men,
many widows entering the fishing industry women, and children who are directly and
at higher levels. indirectly affected by it, and presents a
One sign of stress among women, as the threat to the livelihoods of households,
communities face fish depletion and communities, and - ultimately - whole
reduced productive capacity due to AIDS, countries.
was competition over fuel-grass, a common In Kagera, as in communities
property resource, on the island of Kerebe. throughout sub-Saharan Africa, women
Wooded areas around Kagera are largely and men, old and young, are adapting
exhausted, and large quantities of grass are their way of life to enable them to cope with
needed as a substitute underlay for drying the impact of the illness and deaths of
the fish, and as fuel for smoking it. The job adults in their most productive years.
of grass collection is consigned to women, In Kagera, we witnessed people coping in
and the sale of grass as fuel provides various ways. Adaptations that we judged
important income. This job is becoming to have a negative impact in the longer
increasingly competitive, with ever-larger term are summarised as follows:

land falling fallow and into disuse as a We also noted various socio-cultural
result of AIDS-related shortages of phenomena and anomalies related to HIV
household labour; and AIDS. The first two of these concern
children taken out of school because transmission of HIV. First, there are mixed
parents can no longer afford the fees, messages about the safety of breast-feeding
due to adult illness and death in the in communities where there are high levels
family; of HIV infection and no testing is available.
increasing numbers of children working Breast-milk supplies high levels of
(although we did not come across this, immunity to infection, and current
the potential for the unscrupulous to international guidelines (WHO, 15 May
exploit children's and whole families' 2000) recommend breast-feeding,
desperation is there); particularly in contexts such as Kagera
downward pressure on fishing wages, as where there is no safe alternative, and
casual work is sought by members of where most infants are at high risk of
AIDS-depleted families, and a buyer's morbidity and mortality from diarrhoeal
market develops; disease and other infections, especially if
lower-value diets in families adapting to they are bottle-fed. However, at the time we
loss of income, food crops, and fish; visited the area, at least one international
increasingly regular income from NGO working in the area was counselling
commercial sex work (commonly against breast-feeding by HIV-positive
through tea-houses and potnbe bars), mothers. Secondly, we noted the
particularly for women who lack other phenomenon of noisy, new Christian youth
skills, or who decide that this is the groups, whose members are asked to
easiest way to earn cash for children's pledge themselves in public to sexual
upkeep. abstinence before marriage, and monogamy
within it: a source of some amusement to
Positive ways of coping with the impact of the staff in our hotel, where we were
AIDS-related illness and death also existed regularly entertained by different groups.
in Kagera. We judged these to include: Another set of social phenomena
affects those living with HIV and AIDS.
villagers taking in orphaned children Around Kagera, fishermen who know they
who were not relatives, leading to their have the virus have joined outlaw groups
being able to maintain food production on the islands, providing the cheap labour
with the extra labour (we witnessed this on which whole communities - such as that
occurring in cases where children had run on Kerebe by the perch lords -
already given up school, and others are built. They are believed, probably
where they had left when school fees correctly, by the surrounding community
could no longer be paid); to be spreading the disease. In these
conscious adaptation of lake- and, communities, there is widespread
particularly, beach-fishing, to enable alcoholism, particularly featuring pombe
AIDS orphans to participate and feed and distilled banana alcohol.
other methods of coping at community What is needed for the
levels, including pragmatic land-use future?
arrangements designed to help the needy
families, which effectively change Development organisations working in
patterns of tenure. regions affected by a high prevalence of
HIV/AIDS need urgently to develop their
The impact of AIDS on Tanzanian lakeshore communities 27

understanding of the economic and social women's access to credit, labour, inputs,
processes triggered by this disease (Barnett and information. It is also important to
and Blaikie 1992). It kills those of combine these with support for education
productive age, and leaves children and (for example, in-school feeding) to
elderly people to make a livelihood as best encourage continued school attendance by
they can. This suggests additional the children of AIDS-depleted families.
development priorities in the supporting of
livelihoods of AIDS-depleted households. Judith Appleton is a food-security specialist.
HIV/AIDS is not only a health issue that She was working for FAO's Fisheries
demands prevention and care for the sick; Department when she visited Kagera. For her
it is also a livelihoods issue, since, if AIDS- work as a nutritionist with Save The Children
depleted households are not the target of Fund(UK) during the 1983-85 famine in
particular support, the precarious Ethopia, the UK government made her an MBE
livelihoods of survivors are likely to (Member of the Order of the British Empire).
collapse under the impact of the epidemic. Her address is 197 Knowlwood Road,
Our PRA exercises enabled us to make a Todmorden, West Yorkshire, OLU 6PF, UK.
tentative and preliminary exploration of E-mail:
the impact of AIDS in Kagera. There is now
an urgent need for case studies like this to Note
be followed up and verified, for pointers
given here to emerging trends and coping 1 The primary source of information for
strategies to be amplified, and for lessons to this article comes from the PRA exercise
be drawn from them and applied. Rapid with members of Haya fishing
research, identifying livelihood trends in communities in Kagera, and interviews
AIDS-affected areas, should lead to with key informants. The article is based
establishing the validity, extent, and on more women's voices than men's,
development of the above trends and since I was involved in more of the
others, the setting of precise targeting women's interviews. The article also
criteria for household vulnerability due to draws on subsequent discussions and
AIDS-depletion, and the provision of communications with Marion Pratt, on
precise and appropriate support packages her own findings in the course of
for different types of household. anthropological research in the region.
Government, funding agencies, and
NGOs involved in development need to
adopt a consultative approach, to identify References
the key occupations that need support in
local AIDS-depleted populations. This will Appleton J (1993), Lake Victoria Fisheries and
allow invention and adaptation to flourish, Development in Kagera Region, Tanzania,
as it did in the case of the N'toro report for GCP/INT/467/NOR to
fishermen's own initiative to ensure that URT/90/005, FAO Rome
AIDS orphans were able to take part Barnett A and Blaikie PM (1992), AIDS in
in seine-fishing. In particular, because Africa: Its present and future impact,
women generally have fewer social rights, The Guildford Press, London.
for example to land, support is needed for Hivinsite http:/ /
those women's enterprises that help them international / africa
and their families to survive despite AIDS WHO (World Health Organisation)
illness and death in the household. http: / / / chd / publication /
This support would include promoting newslet / dialog / 9 / update
Providing sex education to
adolescents in rural
experiences from BRAC
Sabina Faiz Rashid
The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) set up an Adolescent Reproductive Health
Education (ARHE) programme in 1995, to provide information about reproductive health to
adolescents in rural areas. New ideas and information are breaking the silence and shame about
'sensitive' topics, and proving a positive influence on the relationships between adolescents and their
parents and teachers, and among adolescents themselves.

wenty-three per cent of the total 1999). Moral disapproval of sexual activities
population of Bangladesh is aged outside marriage means that overall
between ten and 19. Over the next discussion and knowledge of such issues
decade, these adolescents will enter their tend to be limited. Friends and older
prime reproductive years. Like other South cousins, brothers, and sisters are the main
Asian states, Bangladesh is a conservative source of information for adolescents, but
country. In addition to the effect of these informants are often ignorant about
conservatism and strong patriarchal reproductive health matters themselves.
structures, rural Bangladesh is influenced As a result, young adolescents have
by Islam, Hinduism, and traditional inadequate knowledge and often indulge in
religious beliefs. The predominantly risky behaviour.
traditional and conservative nature of
Bangladeshi society demands that young
unmarried adolescent girls are modest and
The ARHE programme
- at least in theory - sheltered from In 1995, the Bangladesh Rural
sexuality and knowledge of sexual Advancement Committee (BRAC)1 set up
reproduction. Low levels of education an Adolescent Reproductive Health
combine to create an environment of Education (ARHE) programme. ARHE
misunderstanding regarding reproductive classes are provided through BRAC's Basic
and sexual health (Nahar, Amin et al, 1999). Education for Older Children (BEOC) or
Despite the fact that socio-cultural Kishor Kishori (KK) schools, which run for
values in Bangladesh prohibit premarital three years. Pupils are adolescent boys and
sexual activity, research findings indicate girls over the age of 12 who have never
that about half of all young men in rural been enrolled in school. They are from very
areas have pre-marital sex, although the poor socio-economic backgrounds. Almost
figures are lower for women, who are all parents are illiterate and have had very
subject to greater social control (Aziz and little formal schooling. ARHE classes are
Maloney 1985, cited in Caldwell and Pieris
provided in the third year of schooling.
Providing sex education to adolescents in rural Bangladesh 29

They are taught by women teachers who semi-structured interviews with

have primary education to Grade 9, from adolescents, mothers and aunts, teachers,
within the same community. ARHE and BRAC programme staff. The semi-
education is also provided in BRAC's structured interviews were carried out
community libraries (pathaghar), and privately with individuals, to allow
government secondary schools. Classes are respondents to speak freely on taboo topics.
taught for an hour a fortnight in the Adolescent boys were interviewed by male
KK schools, and once a month in the researchers, and girls by female researchers.
community libraries (assessment report, We cross-checked data to allow for
1999). Currently there are 803 institutions exaggeration or bias in some of the
teaching ARHE, with approximately adolescents' responses, and the numerous
27,175 students. anecdotal stories told by many participants.
The current ARHE curriculum,
introduced in 1998, includes education on Findings
the physical and mental changes
experienced during adolescence; female and
male physiology; and the process of Community acceptance of the programme
reproduction, including conception, The fact that the ARHE's classes have been
pregnancy, and childbearing, and guidance held without any disruption from village
on the age at which marriage and members reveals a measure of acceptance of
childbearing should take place; sexually the programme so far. This may be partly
transmitted diseases; family planning and because family-planning programmes
disease prevention; substance abuse, targeting adults have already introduced
including smoking; and gender issues, the idea of family planning, and family-
including inequality between males and planning methods, into rural communities
females, the need for respect between sexes, in Bangladesh (Mita and Simmons 1995).
the role of males and females in Like them, the ARHE programme is
reproduction, and violence against women directing information on reproductive
and young girls. health knowledge at community level.
Other factors that are likely to have led to
this acceptance include the growing
The research urbanisation of rural areas, the modernising
This article explores the effects of the ARHE influences of the electronic media, and
programme on adolescent girls and boys, increasing exposure to the views of NGOs,
their parents, and community members; such as BRAC, which have been working in
discusses the perceptions and concerns of these areas for long periods of time.
adolescents as they face many
psychological, social, and cultural changes; Key issues for girls and boys
and explores the various factors influencing Adolescent girls reported that menstruation
community acceptance of the programme. was the most significant topic discussed at
It draws on research into the impact of the the classes. In Bangladesh, this is associated
programme in Nilphamari district, one of with sexuality, fertility, and pollution, and
the first districts where the programme was is considered a shameful and hidden
set up. The field research was carried out subject. Soon after the onset of
from mid-October to the end of November menstruation, adolescent girls - particularly
1999, in KK schools and community in rural areas - are married off (although
libraries. Research methods used included this practice is changing in some regions -
focus groups, participant observation, and Rashid and Michaud 2000). The social

taboos surrounding menstruation are so manner, in a plastic packet or cloth

great that young adolescent girls and their wrapper, after washing and drying the
mothers usually do not share their material. Similarly, another BRAC staff
experiences and knowledge of member who has worked with the ARHE
menstruation. A recent research study programme for several years mentioned
carried out in both rural and urban areas of that one of the most obvious impacts of the
Bangladesh with adolescents aged between programme has been the adoption of
ten and 19 found that, out of 232 girls, only hygienic practices by adolescent girls
34 per cent knew about menstruation during menstruation.
before experiencing it, and as a result they While girls were especially interested in
found it mentally traumatic. After the onset understanding menstruation, adolescent
of menstruation, many of these girls boys particularly wanted the ARHE to give
confided in their elder sisters, sisters-in- them information related to sex, including
law, or grandmothers, who in turn gave AIDS, STDs, and family-planning methods.
them information on how to manage their One of the boys explained the eagerness
menstruation. However, in most cases, with which other adolescent boys
the information given was incomplete approached him for answers about the
(Nahar, Huq et al 1999). female body and family-planning methods.
Our research confirmed that the onset He said: 'When my friends found out I was
of menstruation can be a particularly learning all of this in the school, they came and
traumatic time. One girl said: 7 had my asked me a lot of questions, like "how does a girl
menses when I was 12 years old ... I was really get pregnant?" and "why do menses (periods)
very scared. I thought I am dying. Blood was happen?" and "tell us about some family-
coming out. I went to my bhabi (sister-in-law), planning methods"... I answered some of the
but she sent me to my older sister.' A number questions. Not all, as I don't know many of the
of the girls said they were now using their answers...'
new knowledge of hygienic menstruation Family-planning methods were another
practices gained through the ARHE, and popular topic with girls, which had until
discussing their new knowledge with other then been discussed mainly with friends,
girls in the village. The diffusion of and in some cases with younger sisters-in-
knowledge among girls took place law or sisters. Except in a few rare cases,
informally, in after-school chats and in the there was no discussion of family-planning
community library. One girl explained: We methods between mothers and daughters.
usually sit and talk together with the other girls Adolescent girls said they were
in the village. That is when they ask me about uncomfortable discussing these matters
what I am learning in class. One girl came... with their mothers and older female
and I told her what I know - use a clean cloth, relatives, because communication patterns
wash it, and don't worry, it is natural - in rural Bangladesh are strongly influenced
it is nothing to be scared of.' by gender and age. Family planning on the
One of the BRAC health field staff whole is a sensitive subject between older
responsible for supervising and monitoring women and young unmarried girls in the
teachers in the rural areas stated that some 'traditional' rural culture (Mita and
of the school teachers mentioned that in the Simmons 1995).
past young girls would leave their Discussion about STDs and HIV/AIDS
menstrual cloths in inappropriate places. took place among the girls, but only one
However, since learning about the need for girl had talked about the issues with adults.
hygienic practices during menstruation, Most of the girls were unclear about the
they have kept their cloths in a proper causes and symptoms of the diseases, and
Providing sex education to adolescents in rural Bangladesh 31

thus sharing of knowledge with peers was As long as she is learning all this, it is less
confined to limited comments such as, worry for me, and she will know what to do.'
'If someone goes to a bad person (prostitute) Girls' sharing of new knowledge of
they will get AIDS', or '[having] too many family-planning methods was confined to
partners causes STDs'. Boys' knowledge of sisters-in-law2 and close friends. 7 told my
STDs and AIDS was also limited. bhabi to use something - not to have too many
Adolescent boys were mainly interested children. I told her about the methods I had
in sharing what they had learnt in their learned. She listened to me and asked me for
ARHE classes with their friends and male more information, but I could only tell her what
cousins. One boy commented, 'At our age I knew. She said she would discuss it with my
when the boys go to the bad place, they don'tbrother.'
use In one case, a girl discussed STDs
condoms... I told my cousin that the illnesseswith her older sister-in-law: 7 told her that if
[AIDS and STDs] spread if one does too much someone has an STD and has relations with his
mixing. He became very quiet. I told him if he wife then she - the wife - can also get it, and the
used condoms, as apa [teacher] had explained to can also be born with the illness.'
us, he would prevent the illnesses from In all, the implementation of the ARHE
happening.' Another boy explained: 'What I programme within the schools, and the
found most important was family-planning sharing of knowledge by adolescents via
methods - if we don't know this now, it can be personal channels, have generated a new
damaging for us later. I told my friend - consciousness about reproductive health
he studies in high school, and he does not know matters. The ARHE programme has to a
that if one does not use a condom when he goes certain degree legitimised 'making the
to the bad place he can get AIDS.' unspoken spoken', in that the shame and
silence surrounding girls' and boys' bodies
Wider dissemination of ARHE has been broken, with the adolescents freely
information discussing 'taboo' subjects. Other studies of
It is clear from the above that the newly adolescent intervention programmes have
acquired knowledge among adolescent also found that they result in adolescents
boys and girls is also passed on to their peer 'breaking] the culture and shame
networks in the villages. The adolescents surrounding their bodies' (Mamdani 1998).
who attend AHRE classes become an
important source of basic knowledge about Love and romance
health for their unmarried and married ARHE classes also seem to provide an
peers, and for members of their families. opportunity for some adolescent girls and
Some girls had also shared aspects of boys to share their feelings about prem
their new knowledge with their mothers. (love) and 'romance'. This would have been
One mother remarked: 'My daughter and I considered unthinkable for previous
talk about everything. She told me what to do generations
if in rural areas. In a culture
there is menstruation and how to keep myselfwhere social interaction between a non-
clean. I am learning from her now.' Other related adolescent male and female is
mothers knew of their daughters' newly disapproved of, and female virginity highly
acquired knowledge about hygienic valued, the fact that adolescents -
practices during menstruation, without particularly females - are speaking about
having had an open discussion about it. love shows a significant change in attitudes.
One mother explained: 'I buy her soap, as sheIn rural areas, if an adolescent girl is
said she needs to wash her things with it. perceived to be behaving inappropriately -
forI example, not covering her body
She asked me for the soap, so I got it for her but
don't say anything to her. What is there to say? sufficiently modestly,3 laughing and talking

with boys or men, walking in a particular they are far more vulnerable to coercive,
manner, being seen in 'public' spaces, and unsafe, and unplanned sexual intimacies.
so on, she is subject to harassment, and the Many of the female adolescents' narratives
family faces dishonour as well. However, about the consequences of prem dwelt on
despite social pressure to conform, not all betrayal, punishment from the village
adolescents are following the norms. elders, jail, and unmarried girls getting
Although some of the boys and girls pregnant. Some of the stories centred on
said they wanted to make their own revenge, where the girl was gang-raped, or
choices regarding their marriage partners, acid was thrown to scar her face. Parents'
many admitted that their parents were the stories mirrored that of the adolescents.
main decision-makers. Nevertheless, a However, their stories were tinged with
number of adolescents said that they anxiety and tension for their daughters:
resorted to 'falling in love' secretly, in the 'What to do if they (adolescents) run off and do
hope of finding themselves a partner to bad work? How will we show our face in the
marry, or in some cases, to elope with. village? We worry about our girls!'
However, usually these statements were
accompanied by contradictory remarks Discussions of sexuality
such as 'good romance remains pure', or 'if The AHRE classes seem to have provided
two people like each other, then there is nothing adolescent girls and women with a means
wrong with the prem as long as it is not bad of discussing sexuality. Young adolescent
prem [sex is involved]'. Good love was girls, and some of the teachers, were
defined as the boy and girl ultimately willing to speak out about their sexual
getting married to one another, and desires, satisfaction, and needs with the
'bad' or 'impure' love was defined as sex researchers. This openness is particularly
before marriage, or the boy and girl not significant in a society where a woman or
marrying each other after having a girl is seen as good and pure if she is
relationship (even if it was 'pure'). sexually passive, and any overt expression
Some adolescents said that boys initiate of sexuality is considered shameful. One
a relationship with girls through letters. girl who spoke about sexual satisfaction
Many of the boys' and girls' statements said: 'My friend is very nice and he prays five
revealed emotions partly influenced by the times a day. He kissed me - I think that is
romantic impressions made by movies, normal ... Both men and women have equal
films, and television. In a culture where rights in the sexual relationship.'
boys and girls have few opportunities to The language used by the teachers and
practise conversing in a romantic way, adolescents implied that individuals are
the popular films provide inspiration driven by some primal need, and are
(Pelto 1999). A few of the boys and girls therefore not fully responsible for their
went beyond the letter stage and shared a own actions. Adolescent boys - and girls,
kiss; another young couple went into town too - mentioned that young people are
to take a picture of themselves; and another unable to control their sexual urges, which
even went to the cinema together. Most usually leads to extra-marital activities.
couples resorted to meeting secretly after Some referred to 'too much desire/needs',
dark, in the fields or in empty schools, and 'uncontrollable urges' brought on by
when family members were asleep. hormones: 'Boys and girls get involved in
Only a few adolescent girls and boys sexual relations to meet their sexual needs.'
mentioned incidences of romances having This echoes another study in Bangladesh,
happy endings. Situations such as these in which several unmarried respondents
expose adolescent girls to particular risk, as blamed their sexual behaviour on 'urges',
Providing sex education to adolescents in rural Bangladesh 33

expressing a lack of personal responsibility Early marriage: adolescent girls

for extra-marital sexual encounters asserting their rights
(Caldwell and Pieris 1999). One topic in the AHRE curriculum is early
A number of the boys in our study marriage. In Bangladesh, adolescent
admitted to masturbating on a regular basis marriage is exceptionally common. Parents
and did not appear perturbed, in contrast and in-laws are the main decision-makers
to another study which found that boys regarding young girls' entry into marriage
considered masturbation a sin (Hashima-e- and childbearing, and whether they will
Nasreen et al 1998). Masturbation was seen complete school (Caldwell and Caldwell
as something for jonno mithano (satisfying 1998, cited in Gage 1998). In Nilphamari
one's needs). Some boys mentioned district, most girls are married off at 11-13,
spending time with their friends, watching or even younger. In one of the schools in
pornographic films. 'We get together this district, we found that out of the 14
and watch all these naked people mixing with girls studying in the ARHE programme, six
one another. We feel good, and we sit were already married, with two expecting
and masturbate to satisfy our desires.' their first children.
In Bangladesh, social attitudes towards sex Despite widespread awareness of its
and sexuality tend to be less rigid for boys detrimental effects on the health of girls
than for girls. A mother spoke about her and their babies, early marriage is still
son's habit of watching blue films: 'They all practised. According to mothers, the main
get together and watch bf [blue films]... reason for early marriage was the fear that
Sometimes I get angry and then they listen, their daughters would be 'spoilt', or raped,
but most of the time they do what they want.' fall pregnant, or elope with a boy. Parents
The other women participating in the worry that while their daughters are
discussion were smiling and whispering, studying in school they may be more at risk
and when the researcher asked the speaker of sexual activity, as they have greater
if her daughter watched any blue films, mobility and autonomy, and spend
all the women, including the mother, extended hours beyond the supervision of
looked horrified. The mother stated: their families (Amin et al 1998). Adolescent
'Girls don't watch such things. They would girls tend to have limited mobility,
never do such things.' particularly in poorer families, to safeguard
Adolescent boys appear to be aware their 'purity'. If the girl is known to have
that they have access to more sexual had pre-marital sex, the social status of the
freedom and rights, compared with whole family is affected.
adolescent girls. While some boys felt that Many of the female adolescents who
their behaviour was justified by the fact have participated in ARHE expressed
that they had 'more desires compared with reservations about early marriage, and are
adolescent girls', many commented that using their new knowledge about
girls, although they may share similar reproductive health to argue against early
urges and feelings, are unable to express marriage. For example, during the research
themselves because of social pressures. we found a girl imploring her mother:
Both the boys and girls stated that an 'See - they are BRAC people, and they say early
adolescent girl, 'even if she is bursting to saymarriage is bad.' Turning to us, she said:
or do something ... will not do it'. 'Look - why don't you explain to my mother
that early marriage is bad for me?' Later, when
we were at her sister-in-law's home,
she said to us: 'Tell her not to fix an early
marriage for me. I should study more at school.
Please don't get me married now.'

The attitudes of some parents may be Teaching sensitive subjects to boys

changing as they realise the advantages of In the final year of school, when ARHE
more schooling for their daughters, as well classes are introduced, the health staff of
as the dangers of early pregnancies. Some BRAC assist and guide the teachers in
of the mothers admitted that they waited a teaching the curriculum. Due to time
little longer before marrying off their constraints and additional duties, their
daughters, but confided that they faced visits tend to be sporadic, and most of the
harassment and derogatory comments from responsibility is left to the school teacher.
some elders in the community: 'Your girl Some of the boys, initially taught by
has become big now, you should get her a member of BRAC's health staff, stated
married... You are poor - what will she do with that after her visits decreased their teacher
all this education?' did not follow up and teach them the
remaining curriculum.
Creating a network of peers The ARHE classes are given separately
One feature of adolescence recognised by for boys and girls, because teachers and
sociologists is the creation of a 'peer BRAC programme staff felt that it was
network' in which, through social inter- culturally inappropriate to have boys and
action, young people develop a sense of girls studying such sensitive subjects
their own personal identity, as well as a together. A teacher commented: 'When I
group identity (Amin 1998,196). The ARHE first started teaching about puberty changes,
classes allowed interaction with classmates, they started laughing and giggling. The boys
with greater freedom from parental and girls started misbehaving ... After that,
supervision. The changing values of the we decided that we would have separate classes
adolescents themselves have also led to for the boys and the girls.'
changes in relations between female and One of the adverse effects of having
male adolescents. Some of the girls' separate classes is that some of the teachers
comments indicate that the classes have were teaching the boys' classes
helped to dispel the awkwardness they felt infrequently. BRAC programme rules
previously, when interacting with the boys. require that the classes are taught for an
In addition, they reported that a lot of the hour fortnightly in the schools. Interviews
teasing had subsided. It seems that a with some of the adolescent boys revealed
'comradeship' has developed in a few of the that their classes were being held once a
schools between some of the boys and girls. month, or less. When researchers raised this
with two of the teachers, they admitted to
Challenges for the ARHE having initial reservations about teaching
such sensitive subjects, particularly to male
programme adolescents, but had gradually become
It is most important to remember that the comfortable with teaching ARHE topics to
ARHE is an innovative programme, which adolescent girls. Most justified teaching
is functioning well in a strongly girls on the basis of its being a duty, like
conservative environment, and still that of an older sister. In contrast, they felt
managing to provide adolescents with very uncomfortable about teaching the
information on sexuality and reproductive boys. One commented: T don't know about
health, no matter how basic. This should be the other teachers of this programme, but I
viewed as a great achievement. However, cannot teach the boys all these things. I feel
there are some issues that need to be ashamed.' Some boys complained: 'Teacher
addressed in order to strengthen and doesn't teach explain to us properly about what
improve the quality of the programme. we want to know, and we cannot ask her'.
Providing sex education to adolescents in rural Bangladesh 35

Gaps in knowledge ofSTDS, including Gaining wider community acceptance

In all the areas where the ARHE
Most of the adolescents had only heard of programme was set up, there were existing
'the threat of AIDS', and saw it as a BRAC programmes, such as income-
potential threat to the community, but not generating activities, non-formal schools,
necessarily to themselves. While almost all and micro-credit schemes. BRAC is a
the adolescents in the research were aware familiar organisation, and in some ways
of the link between unprotected sexual has become very much a part of the
intercourse and STDs and AIDS, and knew community. The teachers of the ARHE
that condoms were an effective means of programme are selected from within the
prevention, most also believed that local community, and this, too, helps
'immoral' people - prostitutes and men to gain acceptance for the programme.
who behaved promiscuously - were the Also, most of the stakeholders in AHRE
carriers of STDs and HIV. (students, teachers, parents, and
There was a perception among all the community members) are involved in
adolescents that having multiple partners setting up the schools through which the
was risky. A common sentiment as ARHE is run: for example, by selecting the
expressed by one of the girls was: school site and deciding upon the school
'If someone goes to a bad person then AIDS management committee.
happens... bad women who live without their Several other factors affect acceptance of
husbands and have relations with other men - ARHE in the community. Firstly, the
they have AIDS.' Knowledge of how to mothers' knowledge5 of the ARHE
prevent HIV/AIDS was incomplete and programme appears to be uneven. Many
unclear. A common plea among students mothers knew about the ARHE programme
and teachers was: 'Please tell us in more detail and had detailed knowledge of the
so that we can learn how it happens and what curriculum. At a discussion session, some
happens. What are the symptoms of AIDS? of the mothers stated: 'They are learning so
How can we tell if someone has AIDS?' many important things, which we never had the
Most of the adolescent boys and girls in the chance to learn. It is important and very good
study appeared confused about the that they are learning about family-planning
symptoms of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. methods. They can have small families in the
Both adolescents and teachers said that if a future and be happy.' However, some
person is affected with HIV/AIDS, she or mothers are not aware of the content of all
he would show physical signs of illness. the classes. Boys tended to be too
The adolescents reported that the embarrassed to discuss sensitive subjects
teachers preferred to focus mainly on with their mothers. A majority of the
menstruation, early marriage, and family- adolescent girls preferred to discuss only
planning topics, and skimmed over the the 'safer' topics with their mothers.
topic of STDs, including HIV/AIDS. A majority of the mothers were under the
One girl commented: 'Teachers don't explain impression that their children were being
to us clearly or openly about STDs and AIDS.' taught proiyojon (necessary) life skills to
This seems partly to relate to the shame and prepare them for the future, but did not
silence that has persisted around know in detail what these supposed life
reproductive health matters but, more skills were. One adolescent explained:
importantly, the teachers acknowledged 'My parents don't really know in detail what we
that their own knowledge was weak, and are being taught. We remain careful about what
blamed lack of detailed information in the we say to them.'
ARHE curriculum.

Power relations play a role in the occurring in the context of a wider process
acceptance of the programme. Most of the affecting rural areas of Bangladesh,
families from which ARHE participants involving the media, books, exposure
come are very poor, and dependent on to urban and non-traditional ways of life,
BRAC for educating their children. One boy and schooling.
explained the reasons why his mother did In future, additional research will be
not protest: 'She is scared - what if they ask me needed, with a greater focus on adolescents
to leave the school, if she complains? who participate in the programme and go
She doesn't want to anger the programme staff.' on to marry. Will they be able to negotiate
Another reason could be that in a number and decide on contraceptive methods
of the areas the teachers of the school come together, and to what extent will their
from rich, influential families, some having knowledge of reproductive health issues
direct links with authority figures in the have a positive effect on their lives and the
village. Many poor people would feel development of their communities?
uncomfortable questioning the 'authority'
of a teacher who is not only educated but Sabina Rashid is a research anthropologist
has a high social status. working in the Research and Evaluation
Finally, with the increasing exposure of Division of BRAC (Bangladesh Rural
adolescents to outside influences, a large Advancement Committee), Bangladesh, the
number of the mothers expressed worries largest non-government organisation in the
that they were unable to control their world. Her postal address is A23 Century
adolescent boys and girls, and felt that 'life Estate, Bara Maghbazaar, Dhaka 1217,
skills' and 'health education' were Bangladesh. Email:
important for their children. Although
some community members stated that Notes
providing information about reproductive
health would encourage promiscuous 1 BRAC is one of the world's largest
behaviour, most have accepted the need for indigenous NGOs. Established in 1972, it
it. As one teacher and mother explained: has three main integrated but distinct
'This is the age when they make mistakes - programme areas: education, micro-
so they need to know how to be careful...' credit, and health. The ARHE
programme is under the umbrella of
Conclusion BRAC's health programme, the Health
and Population Division (HPD).
Our research into the impact of the ARHE 2 The sisters-in-law are not much older
programme highlights the need for such than the adolescent girls themselves.
education in rural areas. The programme 3 When discussing the issue of 'covering
provides information to young adolescent one's body', we are not referring to the
girls and boys in the programme, but also veil but to the appropriate covering of
to other adolescents, and adults, who are one's arms, hands, legs, chest, and so on.
not targeted by formal programme 4 Interestingly, in most rural areas, the
strategies. ARHE has mobilised the better-off families have televisions in
community, helping to break the silence their homes - and other families come
and shame about 'sensitive' topics, and has over to watch programmes. Adolescent
thus affected relationships between boys collect money and rent a television
adolescents and their parents, and among and video recorder from nearby video
adolescents themselves. The diffusion of stores to watch pornographic films.
knowledge as a result of the ARHE is
Providing sex education to adolescents in rural Bangladesh 37

5 The fathers are usually busy and do not Nahar Q, Amin S, Sultan R, Nazrul H,
play a role in their children's education. Islam M, Kane T T et al (1999), Strategies
It is mainly the mothers who attend the to Meet the Health Needs of Adolescents:
monthly school meetings, and they were A Review, Operations Research Project,
always available at home when we went Health and Population Extension
to interview. Division, Special Publications No.91,
ICDDR, Bangladesh
Nahar Q, Huq N L, Reza, M, Ahmed, F
References (1999), Perceptions of Adolescents on
Physical Changes During Puberty,
Amin S, Diamond I, Naved R T, Newby M ICDDR and Concerned Women for
(1998), 'Transition to adulthood of Family Development, Dhaka,
female garment-factory workers in Bangladesh (working paper, ICDDR)
Bangladesh', in Studies in Family Pelto P J (1999), 'Sexuality and sexual
Planning, Vol. 29, No. 2 behaviour: the current discourse', in
Caldwell B K and Pieris I (1999), Pachauri and Subramanian (eds),
'Continued high-risk behaviour among Implementing A Reproductive Health
Bangladeshi males', in J C Caldwell , Agenda in India: The Begi7ining,
P Caldwell et al, Resistances to Behavioural Population Council, New Delhi
Change to Reduce HIV/AIDS in Rashid S F and Michaud S (2000), 'Female
Predominantly Heterosexual Epidemics in adolescents and their sexuality: notions
Third World Countries, Health Transition of honour, shame, purity and pollution
Centre, Canberra during the floods', in Disasters, Vol. 24,
Gage, A J (1998), 'Decisionmaking No. 1,: pp.54-70
regarding sexual activity and
contraceptive use', in Studies in Family Acknowledgements
Planning, Vol. 29, No. 2
Hashima-e-Nasreen, Chowdhury M, I would like to thank my colleagues
Bhuiya A, Chowdhury S, Ahmed S M Mahmuda Sarker, Nicci Simmonds,
(1998), Integrating Reproductive and SexualDr Shamsher Khan, and Iftekar Khan for
Health into a Grassroot Development their assistance during project-designing
Programme, BRAC-ICDDR, Bangladesh and data-collection. For their useful
Mamdani M (1999), 'Adolescent comments and critical feedback I am
reproductive health: experience of grateful to my research coordinator,
community-based experiences', in Fazlul Karim; my research colleague,
Pachauri and Subramanian (eds), Nusrat Chowdhury; and my husband,
Implementing A Reproductive Health Safi Rahman Khan. I would also like to
Agenda in India: The Beginning, thank my field-research assistants for their
Population Council, New Delhi hard work. I am grateful to the BRAC field-
Mita R, and Simmons R. (1995), 'Diffusion office staff for their assistance. Finally, my
of the culture of contraception: program thanks to BRAC ARHE programme staff,
effects on young women in rural adolescents, parents, and community
Bangladesh', in Studies in Family members, who bore our endless questions
Planning, Vol. 26, No 1 with patience and humour.
Using life histories to
explore change:
women's urban struggles in Cape Town,
South Africa
Rachel Slater

This article examines the lives of four women who live in Cape Town, South Africa.
Age and stage in the life cycle determined their ability to make a living in Cape Town,
to survive shocking outbreaks of violence in the Crossroads squatter camp in 1983, and to avoid
arrest under the 'pass laws' of the apartheid era. It shows how useful investigating people's
life histories can be in developing understanding of the way in which their freedom to act
is both constrained, and supported, by their context.

nthropologists, sociologists, and chances of making a livelihood. These
historians have recorded and constraints include not only the political,
analysed people's life histories in economic, and social limitations placed on
their research for a long time (Denzin and black South Africans under apartheid, but
Lincoln 1998). More recently, development also constraints related to gender and age.
researchers in both academic institutions I argue that, regardless of the historical
and development organisations are using context, younger women were more
this technique increasingly frequently. successful in negotiating the daily struggle
This article shows how life histories can of urban township life than older ones who
be useful in analysing the impact of arrived in the city at the same time.
political and economic change on the lives
of individuals and social groups. It draws Using life histories in
on my own research in Cape Town, development research
South Africa, which focuses on four black
South African women and their experience Research into people's life histories has two
of urbanisation. It starts by discussing life particular strengths, which are especially
histories as a method for development important in the context of development.
research. From there, it moves on to outline First, life histories enable development
the social, economic, and political context in researchers to understand how the impact
which women migrated to Cape Town of social or economic change differs
under apartheid.1 Four case studies are according to the unique qualities of
used to highlight the shared, and individual women or men. This is because
individual, experiences of four women who they allow researchers to explore the
arrived in Cape Town between 1949 and relationship between individual people's
1986, in defiance of the pass laws, which ability to take action (their 'agency'), and
prohibited such migration. 2 The case the economic, social, and political
studies show very clearly the structural structures that surround them. Researchers
constraints that have shaped these women's often choose to use alternative research
Using life histories to explore change in Cape Town, South Africa 39

methods - for example, structured people during an interviewing process. It

interviews or surveys - to research the seemed to me that talking to women about
impact of change. However, these methods their lives in Cape Town was akin to freeing
often lead to generalised results, which flood-waters that had been held back for
depict the experiences of 'ordinary people', years. These women were willing to tell
suggesting that everyone experiences a their stories. A simple invitation to do so
particular event, trend, or policy in the allowed the women themselves to define
same way (often irrespective of their what was significant or crucial in shaping
gender). Using life histories 'humanises' their experiences in the city. A structured
development research, allowing us to questionnaire would not have yielded the
challenge the tendencies to portray people same insights into the horrific violence that
as victims (Keegan 1988) or as happy many women suffered at the hands of both
peasants (Cross and Barker 1991).3 African and white men, nor would women
Life histories can be collected from have felt free to tell their stories in any way
women or men of similar or different ages, they wished to.
for different aims. For example, one
researcher, examining older women's life Legal and economic
strategies in South Africa, focuses on constraints on women's
women born within a single decade movement to the city
(Bozzoli 1991). The research shows that
women's migration and livelihood This section briefly outlines the social,
strategies have been constrained by their economic, and political context in which
social, economic, and political context, but women migrated to Cape Town during the
also shows that this context changes during apartheid era.
the course of the women's lives. When they A feature of urbanisation in South Africa
were young and single, the women in the has been the increasing presence of Africans
research faced different opportunities and in urban areas, despite legislative measures,
constraints in making a livelihood, commonly known as influx control,
compared with those facing them when designed by the apartheid regime.4 Influx
they were older, with dependants. control was intended to prevent Africans
In contrast, the 14 women to whom I talked becoming anything more than temporary
in my own research were drawn from a residents in cities.
much wider range of ages. For example, In 1900, the African population of
Vuyelwa was 70 and had arrived in Cape Cape Town was less than 10,000, most of
Town in 1949, while Funeka, at 31, had whom were men employed at the harbour.
been in Cape Town for just one decade. The migrant labour system, already
If women of different ages are interviewed, an entrenched policy of the government,
researchers are able to show the links was developed in the mines, but also
between the different stages in the life used to regulate labour in Cape Town
courses of individual women, and the (Wilson 1972). In 1901, the outbreak of
influence on those women of shifting bubonic plague provided a 'dramatic and
economic contexts and historical changes as compelling opportunity for those who were
they occur at different stages of individual promoting segregationist solutions to social
women's lives. problems', and Africans were removed
A second key strength of life histories in from the city centre (Marks and Anderson
particular (and 'qualitative' research 1987, 183). While the local authorities
methods in general) is that they allow a sought to remove Africans from
much more open-ended interaction with Cape Town, processes of land alienation

and forced removals under the 1913 book to be presented on demand to the
Natives Land Act meant that more people police or pass inspectors.
sought work in the city. By 1920, The application of pass laws to women
manufacturing was established in was to be central to their experiences of
Cape Town, and urban slums were urbanisation, and would define their
developing at the city's periphery. capacity to make a living for decades to
The Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923 follow. The intended impact of government
aimed to prevent Africans from entering policy on African women and family life
and residing in cities, and it entrenched the was spelt out clearly in 1954 by the
notions of residential segregation and the Cape Town City Council: 'The policy of
principle that Africans were permitted into this government is to reduce the number
urban areas for labour purposes only of African families in the Western Cape ...
(Davenport 1991). The 1923 Act applied to The labour needs of the peninsula are to be
African men alone, as they formed the met by migratory labour .. .Those who have
majority of migrants to Cape Town. the right to stay will be allowed to remain,
Women and children remained in rural the rest will go home' (quoted in Cole
areas and relied on remittances from their 1987, 7).
husbands. In the 1960s, shifts in the price of gold
The Second World War and its brought changing economic conditions in
aftermath saw rapid economic growth, Cape Town. There was a stricter imposition
matched by urban African population of the Coloured Labour Preference Policy,
increase. A big demand for labour in and the South African government took
Cape Town meant that influx control was stringent measures against illegal dwellers
implemented only half-heartedly (Nattrass in Cape Town. But it was not until the
1981). However, a whole series of laws 1970s that the economy took a sharp
enacted in the 1950s later became the tool downward turn, and, for the first time since
by which tens of thousands of people were the 1920s, African population increase in
moved out of Cape Town in the 1970s the city outstripped economic growth
(Cole 1987). In 1950, the Population (Preece 1994). The government launched a
Registration Act required that all total onslaught on squatting in Cape Town.
South Africans be classified according to In the late 1970s and early 1980s, forced
racial origin. The predominance of removals involved more people, and were
the Coloured (mixed-race) population in enacted more brutally and destructively,
Cape Town led the city and its hinterland to than at any other time in the Cape. In the
be classified as a Coloured Labour area called Crossroads, the government
Preference Area (CPLA) in 1955 (Riley used divide-and-rule tactics to pitch one
1991). By protecting Coloured labour in the community of squatters against another.
city, the government could further Eventually, the conflict boiled over when
constrain African people from moving into the witdoeke, an alliance of people identified
the city. by their white headscarves, attacked and
Until 1952, women were not subjected burned down the shacks of other squatters
to the laws that required African men to in 1986 (Cole 1987)
carry documents certifying their right to In the townships, women became the
work and reside in urban areas. In 1952, primary targets of pass raids and
the Natives (Abolition of Passes and harassment by the police. Women were the
Co-ordination of Documents) Act main targets of day-time raids on
stipulated that all Africans over the age of workplaces and of night-time and early-
16 years were required to carry a reference morning raids on hostels where they
Using life histories to explore change in Cape Town, South Africa 41

stayed illegally with their husbands. in the room of her 'homeboys'

'The Cape Peninsula is the only area in the (other Africans from her home town).
country where more women than men are When Sindiswa became pregnant at the
arrested under the pass laws ... It is clear age of 20, they moved to a shack in
that there is a special assault against Crossroads squatter settlement, where
women in the area in line with government Vuyelwa found that she was often harassed
policy of preventing African family by the police. Although she had a pass, she
life from taking further root in the was still squatting illegally, and often had
Cape Peninsula' (West 1982, 467).to evade arrest.
This constant harassment had an enormous
effect on women's daily struggles to work '... the white people didn't want us to stay
and to feed and clothe their families, as there. We should run away. I remember the day
the following women's life stories will I had just finished building my home. I got
illustrate. Sindiswa, and people said: "There are police1."
I think it was about 8 o'clock in the evening.
Stories of urban survival: Well, I took my things, I took my bag and I ran
four case studies away. I went to sleep for weeks there - we used
to sleep in the bush. And then in the mornings I
Vuyelwa went to work and I washed at the train station
Vuyelwa was born in 1926 and grew up in and then I got a train and I got off there in
Queenstown (a 'white' town between the Cape Town and went to the toilet. It was bad,
so-called homelands of Transkei and very bad, and then I went to work. And I was
Ciskei).5 In 1949, as a young woman, with my ID, my pass. Even if you had the pass,
Vuyelwa and her elder sister left to work in they didn't want you staying there.'
Cape Town, to escape their tyrannical, lazy
father. Three years later, when the pass In the 1970s, some of the former single-sex
laws were first applied to women, Vuyelwa hostels in Langa (one of the first African
qualified automatically for a pass, and her townships in Cape Town, established in
right to work in Cape Town was endorsed. 1924) were transformed into homes for
However, the fact that she was a legal families. As a pass-holder, Vuyelwa
worker did not affect the poor treatment applied for a house and, in 1979, was
that she experienced at the hands of her allocated one. At first, she did not like
employers, which she remembers vividly: living in Langa: she found it too rough, and
she knew few people. However, when
'They (whites) were terrible that time. Before, violence escalated in Crossroads in the
when we were working for the white people, we 1980s and the witdoeke forced thousands
had our dishes, our own dishes. We couldn't from their homes in KTC and Nyanga, she
mix the dishes. It was because I was African and was thankful to have escaped.
she was white. I couldn't wash them in the same
bowl, I had to wash them outside.' Thokozile
Thokozile told me that she arrived in
Vuyelwa worked and lived at the homes of Cape Town in 1964, long after the
white people for many years. She had three imposition of the pass laws on women.
children, who were raised by her family at Previously she had been working in a
home. When her daughter, Sindiswa, came Transkei town, teaching the Xhosa
to visit, Vuyelwa moved to Gugulethu language to Father Fisher, a priest.
(an African township in Cape Town) to live She came to Cape Town to be close to her

mother, who had left the Transkei after passes. On one occasion, she saved herself
being mistreated by her in-laws. Thokozile from arrest by stripping naked and lying on
arrived in Cape Town without a pass, a bed surrounded by women. When the
but, clutching a glowing reference from pass inspectors burst through the door,
Father Fisher, secured employment in a they were confronted by the sight of
hospital laundry. She called herself Thokozile, seemingly in the late stages of
Virginia. The pass inspectors soon caught labour, and they made a hasty retreat.
up with her. Thokozile eventually found stability in
Cape Town, when Father Fisher found her
'So I started work there - it was in January. a job as a cleaner at an adult education
In April, I saw two men standing in the centre in Langa. She was taken to the
laundry and they were asking for Virginia and I administration office at Langa, to try to
told them "I am Virginia", and they said "You organise a pass.
are coming with us." I asked them why, and
they said "You are not allowed to work here '... in 1982, Sister Alfreda took me to Langa
because you haven't got a pass."' pass office. Mr Lawrence was working there,
and he asked me "Where have you been all these
Thokozile found herself in a police cell. She years?" I told him "I have been playing hide
was searched, her pockets were emptied, and seek with the police1." And Mr Lawrence
and she was told that she would be locked laughed, so he fixed my pass. I couldn't believe
up that night and then taken to court in the it. It was the first time I had the pass!
morning. From 1964 until 1982 I had been doing hide and
seek with the inspectors.'
'It was a terrible day that day. I will never
forget it because it was hot outside, and Nolindile
everything was locked, and it was the first time Nolindile could not tell me when she was
I was locked up, and the window was so small. born, but she had grown up in a remote
I was sweating. I didn't have anything to part of the Transkei and was married there
eat that day, for the whole day - I didn't eat at the age of 18. For the first 20 years of
until supper.' their marriage, her husband Mackenzie
worked at the mines near Johannesburg.
The next day, Thokozile was sentenced to He was dismissed when he contracted
two months' imprisonment. After serving tuberculosis. For a while, farming
her sentence, she was escorted back to the supported the family, but the drought of
Transkei by the wives of two African police the late 1970s turned Ngcobo into a dust-
officers. On arrival, she collected money bowl. When his father's entire stock was
that had been mailed to the post office from wiped out by liver disease in the drought,
Cape Town by her boyfriend, bought a Mackenzie went to seek work in
ticket, and caught the same train back to Cape Town. Nolindile was reluctant for
Cape Town along with her two escorts. him to leave, because she feared he would
Thokozile was arrested on two more find a new wife in the city.
occasions. Each time, she was imprisoned
and escorted back to the Transkei, where 'During the drought there was no water. Cattle,
she bought a ticket straight back to sheep, and goats were dying. Grass was dry.
Cape Town. At other times, she evaded That is why he decided to come here. My heart
arrest by sleeping in the bush, or by was sore, because I didn't know whom he was
outwitting the inspectors who came to going to stay with.'
places of work and residence to check on
Using life histories to explore change in Cape Town, South Africa 43

For many years, Nolindile continued Funeka

cultivating crops in Ngcobo, planting where Funeka, a 31-year-old living on a site-and-
there was a little moisture in the soil. service stand,6 is the focus of my fourth case
Eventually, she became ill and could not be history. For Funeka, living in Cape Town
cured by the local traditional doctor. has been a succession of moves, each time
Mackenzie sent money to finance a journey as a refugee fleeing waves of intense
to Cape Town. In Cape Town, Nolindile conflict and violence. She came to the city
was diagnosed at a local hospital with a from rural Transkei in 1986, after an
kidney infection; but her illness was to be unsuccessful marriage. First, she stayed just
the least of her worries. She found outside Cape Town, where her stepfather
Mackenzie squatting in Crossroads, and worked, and lived in the hostels owned by
was immediately confronted with the fruit companies, who relied on cheap
escalating violence there. labour to harvest and process deciduous
fruits. She stayed there for some time,
'When I came here in 1986, there was a big fight pretending to be 'Coloured', so she could
in Crossroads. Then I thought to myself, why work packing apples. The fruit factories
should I come here, because I didn't even know were within the Coloured Labour
about this fight?' Preference Area, so it was difficult to find
work as an African. At night, she often had
Nolindile was bewildered by the town life to flee the hostels to avoid the pass
that she encountered in Crossroads. inspectors. Eventually it became too
Her only role in the city appeared to be to difficult to avoid arrest there, and she
do the washing, since she did not have to moved to Crossroads in 1986. She arrived in
go to the fields or collect wood and water. the midst of the Crossroads conflict, and
She says she has nothing else to do stayed three years.
each day:
'In Crossroads, I started a business. I was
'Life changed now, because up country I used to selling meat and beers. We stayed nice and quiet
wake up very early, and now I wake up any time in Crossroads. Oh! Then the violence erupted,
I like, not very early. I wake up, make myself our houses were burnt down. We stayed in
breakfast, do the washing, and then there is Nyanga centre for four months. We had lost
nothing else I can do. Up country I was working everything. We were moved to Site C, and then
the whole day.' again in Site C there was violence. Then we ran
to Greenpoint, then from Greenpoint to
In spite of her best efforts to find Macassar here.'
employment in Cape Town, Nolindile has
never worked in the city. She has never In Greenpoint, Funeka lived with her
been to school, has no experience of wage brother, a taxi-driver, until he was killed in
labour, speaks no language except Xhosa, a 'taxi war' - a conflict between rival
and still has many children to look after. operators of public mini-buses. One day, a
In 1995, she also was diagnosed with group of men burst into the shack where
tuberculosis, the illness that had forced Funeka lived with her brother, and pulled
Mackenzie out of work in the late 1960s. him outside. They then set upon him with
The daily treatment that she endured for a knives, poured paraffin over him and set
year cured her of tuberculosis, but she him alight. He was burnt alive. Fearing for
remains sickly to this day and has all but her own safety, Funeka ran away, but
abandoned hope of finding employment. returned a month later to try to collect
together some of her belongings.

She successfully registered for a new site- other factors beyond the immediate social,
and-service stand in Macassar, fleeing from economic, and political context have
violence for the third time in less than shaped their lives. These are gender, age,
ten years. and the stage of life that women had
At the time I met her, in 1996, Funeka reached when factors in the external
was living in Macassar, Khayelitsha, context affected them.
an area of Cape Town established in 1983. Comparing the four stories, it is clear
She lived with her son Vusumzi and her that certain aspects of South Africa's influx
brother. Peter, Vusumzi's father, also lived controls affected all the women as women.
with them, but often disappeared for days There was a distinct gender dimension to
on end. He rarely gave Funeka money for urban apartheid. Women were the targets
food; she relied heavily on income made of most pass raids in the townships,
from sewing, and money contributed by hostels, and squatter camps, and occupied
her brother. Funeka was not in love with a much more precarious position in the city
Peter; with no illusions about her than men. The policy of influx control
relationship with him, she was honest approved the presence of limited numbers
about its limited benefits. of African men in cities as temporary
labour, and the authorities had built single-
'The main reason why (I wanted to have a sex hostels to accommodate them. The fact
boyfriend): I was alone. I built this house. I had that African women were not welcome was
no boyfriend. Now, there was a girl staying reflected in the limited family housing that
alone, and her house was burnt down, and no- existed in the two townships of Gugulethu
one saved this girl. If there was a man, he and Nyanga. This housing was very
should have saved her, and there is this overcrowded. During the Crossroads
breaking-in of skollies (vandals) at night. I was conflict, the South African government set
also afraid of that. Well, I decided to have women against men, in order to divide
somebody to stay with.' communities. It actively undermined the
women's group that sought to find a
After years of forced removals, evading the solution to the conflict, and supported the
pass laws and being shunted from pillar to witdoeke as they attacked other squatters
post to escape appalling violence, it is not (Cole 1987). Women of all ages were very
surprising that Funeka views Khayelitsha vulnerable to attack by the witdoeke, and to
as a city of broken people. However, she is rape and sexual assault.
finally finding some peace in Macassar. Women's ages, and the stages they had
Perhaps because she is the youngest of the reached in their life cycles, were
women whose life stories I collected, determining facts in their experience of
her feet seem to be firmly rooted in town. arrival and survival in Cape Town.
In spite of the endemic violence, unrest, Vuyelwa and Funeka were both very
and poverty that characterise life in young when they arrived, and both seemed
Khayelitsha, I felt that Funeka somehow to have adapted relatively easily to town
maintained the energy to keep going, life. Vuyelwa's path was made easier
whatever life threw at her. because she automatically qualified for a
pass on arrival in 1949, but both she and
Gender, age, and life-stage: Funeka, who arrived in 1986, were better
shaping women's lives equipped to cope with nights in the bush
and evade pass inspectors, particularly
When I looked in detail at these four because neither had small children to look
women's experience of apartheid policies after. Both were seeking social and
in an urban setting, it became clear that financial independence from their families,
Using life histories to explore change in Cape Town, South Africa 45

and may well have fared better for feeling housing in Gugulethu. Younger, unmarried
much less loyalty and responsibility women without children could often find
towards their families in the Transkei than accommodation with homeboys, but the
older women. homeboys were frequently reluctant to
In contrast, women arriving at an older house older women or women with
age had usually come to Cape Town at a children, who were viewed as a
moment of crisis, fleeing dire economic greater burden.
conditions in the Transkei. They had
stronger family ties and a sense of Conclusion
responsibility for children and other
dependants. Consequently their sense of Each of the women's stories that are
the need to support people back in the presented here has painted a different
Transkei was much stronger. Of the four picture of the experience of migration to
women above, Nolindile had struggled Cape Town and survival in urban areas
through illness and years of drought at under apartheid. The technique of
home before moving to Cape Town with analysing women's life stories shows that
her children, leaving other family members there are common aspects in their
behind. Thokozile abandoned her job in the experience, some of which are related to
Transkei after several months of loneliness, their gender, age, and life stage; in
following family problems and her addition, there are aspects that are unique
mother's departure. to particular women. Funeka and
Age and stage in the life cycle were Thokozile come across as having both the
important also in the sense that the length strength of character and the adaptability
of time that women spent in Cape Town to respond to changing opportunities and
influenced their capacity to seize constraints on life in Cape Town, while
opportunities that came their way, or find Nolindile did not seem to adapt to town
their way around constraints affecting life at all. Thus, it is difficult - if not
residence and employment. As described impossible - for a researcher to understand
earlier, one common effect of apartheid the impact of particular policies or
policies in Cape Town was the shortage of development interventions by untangling
housing for Africans. However, while all common experiences from those that are
the women had problems in establishing unique. Urban apartheid and influx control
secure, stable homes, these difficulties were governed the working and social lives of all
compounded for those with fewer years' the women, but not necessarily in the same
experience in Cape Town. When I met manner, at the same time, or to the same
them, Thokozile (who arrived in 1964) and extent. It is only possible to understand
Vuyelwa (who arrived in 1949) occupied women's experiences of urbanisation by
brick houses with full services, while analysing the way in which factors
Nolindile and Funeka, who both arrived in particular to individuals, such as age and
1986, lived on site-and-service stands, at stage in the lifecycle, cross-cut the
risk from annual flooding in the winter structural context that shapes women's
months. The women's ability to get access lives.
to housing was dependent on a series of So what are the implications of this for
prerequisites, such as whether they had policy-makers and planners in
children, possessed passes, or could call on development? It seems to me that the use of
people from the same area of the Transkei life histories in development research
who now lived in Cape Town. Married enables us to examine the impacts of
couples - with or without children - who policies on different kinds of people, rather
possessed passes could apply for family than homogenising people's experiences of

poverty and the ways in which a policy groups were expected to subsist through
affects them. Furthermore, life histories agriculture.These areas were an
offer a good opportunity to inject humanityimportant source of surplus labour for
into our analyses of social and economic the mines and South Africa's urban
change. areas.
6 A plot of land with water and electricity
Rachel Slater is Research Officer at the supplies laid on.
Institute for Development Policy and
Management, University of Manchester,
Crawford House, Precinct Centre, References
Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9GH, UK
E-mail: Bozzoli, B (1991), Women of Phokeng:
Consciousness, Life Strategy and Migrancy
Notes in South Africa, 1900-1983, Ravan Press,
South Africa
1 Apartheid was the policy of separate Cole, J (1987), Crossroads: The Politics of
development for people of different Reform and Repression, 1976-1986,
racial groups (black, white, 'Coloured' Ravan Press, South Africa
and Indian) in place in South Africa Davenport, T R H (1991), South Africa:
from 1948 until the first fully democratic A Modern History, Macmillan, UK
elections in 1994. Keegan, T (1988) Facing the Storm: Portraits
2 The 'pass laws' were laws enacted and of Black Lives in Rural South Africa,
amended from 1923 onwards that David Philip Publishers, South Africa
governed the residence and movement Marks, S and Anderson, N (1987), 'Issues in
of blacks in South Africa. The main the political economy of health in
objective of the laws was to prevent the South Africa', Journal of Southern Africa
entrance of blacks into South Africa's Studies, Vol. 13, No.2, pp.175-86
urban areas, except where and when Preece, H (1994), 'The economics of
their labour power was required. apartheid' in Harker, J, The Legacy of
3 'Victims' are people viewed as having no Apartheid, Guardian Newspapers, UK
agency and whose lives are determined Nattrass, J (1981), The South African
by the structures that surround them. Economy: Its Growth and Change, Oxford
The idea of 'happy peasants' suggests University Press, UK and South Africa
people who, despite their impoverished Riley, E (1991), Major Political Events
state, are unaware of the hardships that in South Africa, 1948-1990,
they endure and the social, political, and Oxford University Press, Facts on File
economic inequalities that straddle all Slater, R (1998), 'Putting Down Roots:
parts of the globe. African Women's Lives and Livelihoods
4 In the South African context, the term in the Townships of Cape Town,
'African' is used historically to denote South Africa', PhD Thesis, Institute for
the black population, since the Development Policy and Management,
South African government renamed University of Manchester
Africans as 'blacks', 'natives' and 'bantu' West, M (1982), 'From pass courts to
at various times. It is not meant deportation: changing patterns of influx
to suggest that white or Coloured control in Cape Town', African Affairs,
South Africans are not African. No. 81, pp.463-77
5 The 'homelands' were areas reserved for Wilson, F (1972), Migrant Labour in
African settlement under apartheid in South Africa, Johannesburg, South African
which Africans of particular tribal Council of Churches
Intact or in tatters?
Family care of older women and men In
urban Mexico
Ann Varley and Maribel Blasco
This article asks how family relationships affect the living conditions of low-income elderly
people in urban Mexico. There is little State provision of accommodation for the elderly, forcing
older people to rely on their families for care. Yet many poorer families cannot afford to provide
care, and some are unwilling to do so. In addition, families treat elderly men and women
differently, with significant consequences for women's and men's housing conditions and
wellbeing in later life.

he material that we analyse comes questionnaire surveys in each area,
from a three-year research project on concerning individual housing histories
gender and housing in Guadalajara, and the broader response to issues
Mexico's second-largest city.1 The research discussed in the groups. Finally, we
has a variety of aims. One of them is to undertook interviews in several asilos
identify new directions for gender-sensitive (homes for the elderly). The names of
policy formulation. We also plan to produce people quoted have been changed.
a small publication for grassroots and non-
government organisations working from a
gender perspective, looking at how housing
The caring family as
issues can be incorporated into the
safety-net for the elderly
empowerment process. In Guadalajara, our The proportion of the population aged over
work focused on four low-income 60 is rising in developing countries. The
neighbourhoods that we considered offered question of who will care for these growing
all the main housing options open to the numbers of elderly has, until recently, been
low-income population. The first was a neglected (Tout 1989). It is often assumed
recent self-help settlement on the edge of that the family will automatically take on
the city; the second was a similar settlement this responsibility, yet little is known about
dating from the 1950s; the third, a the reliability of this safety net in practice
government-housing project of apartment (de Vos 1990).
blocks; and the fourth, an inner-city area In Mexico, strong family ties are often
with a high proportion of rental housing. thought to be a distinguishing feature of the
In each area, we organised discussion national soul, and the family is popularly
groups with residents: one of women, one seen as an unfailing source of support to its
of men. Each group met on six occasions, members. The possibility that families
discussing a variety of topics. In addition to might refuse to care for elderly relatives is
the eight discussion groups and individual seemingly too remote to be worth
follow-up interviews, we conducted two considering (see, for example, Contreras de

Lehr 1992). This myth of the ideal family is In the following discussion, we explore
a persistent one, but many elderly people some of the housing options available to
cannot, in fact, rely on their families for the elderly, and some of the things that can
housing and support. Some of those who render older women and men vulnerable.
are housed by relatives are neglected or
abused: the family is not always an ideal
Living alone or with
solution. Yet idealisation of the caring
family: differences between
family provides hard-pressed governments
with a pretext for them to pass the buck to women and men
relatives, expecting them to care for the In 1990, nearly two-thirds of older people
elderly with minimal support from health living alone in Mexico were women.
or welfare services. Nearly one in ten women of 60 years or
The mistaken belief that the family will more was living alone.2 Women's greater
automatically support its members is longevity means that there are more older
reflected in the lack of institutional women than older men, but those living
provision for the elderly. In Guadalajara, alone outnumber men even more.
demand for asilos has increased There were 112 women for every 100 men
dramatically over the last decade or so, far of 60 years or more, but 170 (and as many
outstripping supply. This is particularly as 224 in the largest urban areas) for every
problematic for low-income elderly people. 100 men living alone.
Few asilos are free, and for the very poor, The existence of so many elderly
who usually do not receive pensions, even women living alone in Mexico is at odds
a small charge is prohibitive. It is estimated with cultural beliefs portraying mothers as
that of tomorrow's elderly population the archetypal recipients of family charity.
(those currently 45-65 years old), only Mothers are supposed to be objects of near-
42 per cent will be covered by some form of veneration for their children. This has been
social security provision (Montes de Oca, used to help to explain census data
1999). The institution that caters for the revealing that elderly women enjoy better
most vulnerable sectors of the elderly physical housing conditions than their male
population is the DIF (Desarrollo Integral de counterparts. The family is thought to be
la Familia - 'Integral Family Development'). 'more willing to provide help or financial
However, the DIF attends to only a few support to their mother or female relatives
hundred elderly people in its asilos in each than to their father or male relatives'
of the major cities. (Llera Lomeli 1996,166).
Another unfortunate consequence of the Since family care for elderly women is
ideology of the responsible family is the taken for granted, those who, for whatever
belief that if you are not cared for by your reason, live alone are particularly
children, you must have done something vulnerable to being judged as 'reaping
in earlier life to merit the otherwise what they have sown'. If Mexican children
inexplicable treatment of being left to fend do not support their mother in her old age,
for yourself. When we asked the personnel she 'must' have been a bad mother. So, in
of asilos why elderly people live in these addition to their precarious living
homes, they sometimes suggested that the conditions, older women may have to face
residents had somehow deserved this fate. being blamed for being 'rejected' by their
The director of a home for abandoned family. Those who have never married -
elderly men and women told us: 'It's always because of their sexual preferences, for
said that what you sow is what you'll reap' example - are also vulnerable to this type
(interview, Guadalajara, May 1998). of moralising, since they may be seen as
Family care of older women and men in urban Mexico 49

having failed in the task of developing traditionally the older woman has taken it
'normal' bonds of affection with others that on herself to teach the younger one to
will sustain them in later life. The 'know her place'. As Mexico has changed
proportion of never-married women in from a rural to an urban society, the country
asilos is far greater than any other category, has seen a growing rebellion against that
suggesting that childless women are the tradition. As one younger woman told us:
most vulnerable group among elderly 'Women were more submissive in the past -
women. if they were taken to live with their husband's
Why do women live alone more parents, they stayed put and didn't protest.
frequently than men? It is well known that Nowadays they rebel, so when he says
they live longer. In Mexico, women "We're going to live with my mother", they
generally marry men a few years older than reply, "No way! Your mother doesn't like me -
them, and they are less likely than men to go and find me a place where we can be on our
re-marry if they are divorced or widowed. own" ... I think it's because women work now,
Older women are therefore less likely than and we feel we have more right to have our say'
men to have a surviving spouse. In 1990, (group discussion, older self-help
76 per cent of men of 65 years or over were settlement, Guadalajara, November 1997).
married or living with a partner, compared Older women can therefore no longer
with only 44 per cent of older women rely on living with their married sons.
(Lopez and Izazola 1994). Neither can they count on living with
Thus, older women are more likely to their married daughters. According to one
live alone, partly because of their longer life social worker whom we interviewed in a
expectancy, which increases their chances State-supported home for elderly people,
of finishing their lives without a partner. women who do not have jobs find it
This observation leaves unanswered, difficult to persuade their husbands to
however, the question of why these women house their mothers (interview,
are not living with relatives. Guadalajara, May 1998).
Our work in Guadalajara suggests that There is a flaw in some discussions of
elderly women may increasingly be forced older people living in extended households,
to fend for themselves as a result of changes which assumes that the elderly have moved
in family relations and female employment in with their children. This reflects a
patterns. In Mexico, as elsewhere, it is widespread tendency to view older people
younger women who have typically cared as passive and dependent, and ignores the
for elderly relatives (Lloyd-Sherlock 1997). important question of whose house it is.
Yet women's role as carers can no longer There is a considerable social and
be taken for granted, due to their increased psychological difference between having a
participation in the labour market. son-in-law or daughter-in-law move in with
This, coupled with greater access to you, and moving in with a married child
schooling, has led to changes in younger and his or her family. We therefore sought
women's attitudes, so that they no longer to see which of these situations was more
unquestioningly submit to their husbands' common in the areas where we were
wishes (LeVine with Sunderland Correa working. Our questionnaire survey yielded
1993). individual information on only a small
Many younger women now object group of older people: 131 people of
vociferously to living with their in-laws. 60 years or over. It is interesting, however,
There is a long history of poor relations because we distinguished between those
between mother-in-law and daughter-in- with and without a partner, and between
law, creating lasting bitterness, as those who were living in a house they

owned or had rented and those who were In spite of these disadvantages, over
living in someone else's house. two-thirds of the women aged 60 or more
We found, as expected, that more men with whom we spoke in Guadalajara said
(82 per cent) than women (50 per cent) that they would prefer to carry on living in
still had partners, while more women their own homes as they grew older.
(10 per cent) than men (3 per cent) lived Although most wanted to be with their
alone. But while almost one-quarter of children or husbands, just over one in ten
women without a partner (11 per cent of all specified 'alone'. 3 When asked why
the women) were living with a son's or they should want to live alone, women
daughter's family, no men were doing so. (of all ages) often said they wouldn't
Three-fifths of the men were still living in want to 'make a nuisance' of themselves.
their own homes with their wives or wives A few explicitly mentioned not wanting to
and children. In all, 17 per cent of women have problems with their daughters-in-law,
were living in a relative's house, but only or to cause trouble between their daughters
5 per cent of men. In short, older men are and sons-in-law. Some (although fewer of
more likely to be cared for by their spouses the older women) said they'd rather be in a
in their own homes, whereas women are home, 'so my children don't get tired of me,
more likely than men to live alone or be and so as not to be a burden' (questionnaire
'taken in' by adult children. survey, Guadalajara, April 1998).
It is tempting to see these responses as
Not being a burden, or expressing the traditional feminine ideal of
self-denial (abnegacion). They should not,
getting some peace: however, always be taken at face value, as
older women on their own they may conceal women's own fears and
Significantly, although living alone is concerns - particularly about having to
generally negatively portrayed, many look after the grandchildren. Some women
women whom we interviewed said that were happy to say straight out that they
this would be their preferred housing didn't want this: 'on my own, so no-one can
option when elderly. Living alone clearly cause me any trouble', or 'on my own, so I
has certain practical disadvantages, such as don't have to be battling, either with my
not having any one around if you are daughters-in-law or with my grandchildren'.
suddenly taken ill. Even having family They had worked hard enough bringing up
nearby, as many people do, is not their own children in poverty, and felt they
necessarily going to solve that problem. deserved a break. For others, however,
Women in the oldest age groups are more 'not wanting to be a burden' expressed,
likely to be infirm and in need of medical indirectly, a complaint about being
attention, and most at risk on their own. expected to look after their grandchildren
Their alternatives are also more limited, as or do housework for their children's
the social worker in a State-supported families (Varley and Blasco, 1999).
home mentioned earlier told us: many
asilos will not admit people who are
incapacitated - imposibilitadas - or ill 'Fathers are two a penny':
(interview, Guadalajara, May 1998). older men's problems
In addition, people can clearly suffer Older men are far less likely to live alone or
problems of loneliness and low self-esteem be dependent on relatives for care than
resulting from internalisation of the notion women. During their lives they have had
that 'what you sow, you reap'. greater access to education, formal-sector
employment, pensions, and health care.
Family care of older women and men in urban Mexico 51

More men than women work, mirroring success in itself, being a father is not
employment patterns in earlier life. As we enough on its own. As one 68-year-old
have seen, older men are more likely to grandmother put it in one of the group
have surviving spouses than women. discussions: 'Fathers are two a penny, but
Consequently, they are less likely to live mothers don't grow on trees.'
alone during the final years of their lives. Divorced and separated fathers, and
They are less frequently dependent men who have children with different
on relatives and are usually financially women or abandon young families, are all
better off (Llera Lomeli 1996, INEGI1993). particularly at risk of rejection by their
Our research nonetheless revealed some children when they become elderly.
unexpected problems that elderly men can As responsibility for child-care after a
face. As with women, many of these separation almost always falls to the
problems derive from constraints and woman, men's links with their children can
cultural norms operating at earlier stages be very fragile, or non-existent. Should a
in their lives. We found that those men man abandon his family or behave
who do become dependent in old age can abusively towards them, he cannot count
experience more extreme destitution than on receiving support in later life.
women, for several reasons. Furthermore, relatives may be less
According to both older and younger willing to take in elderly men, since they
men in our study, Mexican men's most are perceived as incapable of carrying out
significant role is still that of breadwinner. child-care and housework and thus 'paying'
Men who cannot live up to this ideal risk for their keep. Men may also find it more
losing their family's respect, and their own difficult to fit into another household.
self-esteem. Being a good father, and When a man is taken into a married female
therefore a good man, depends on being a relative's household, her husband may
good provider. Other contributions that a resent the attention she gives to the older
father may make, such as providing care man. Men are also regarded as less morally
and nurturing, may not be highly valued. 'trustworthy', and their sexual behaviour as
Widespread poverty means, however, that questionable, regardless of their age, as men
many men are unable to fulfil their from the older self-help settlement said:
breadwinner role adequately. In old age,
a man who has barely been able to scrape Jaime (aged 67): No one's going to trust a
a living has few bargaining counters, man, no matter how old he is. He won't be
since respect for fathers is often based on trusted in anyone's home.
largely material considerations. He cannot
always offer his children a house or other Jesus: You never know what mafias [habits;
inheritance, in exchange for their caring with strong sexual overtones] he might have.
for him.
Moreover, the need to earn a living in Jaime: But with a woman it's different. They
harsh circumstances means that most low- adapt better. People say: 'You can stay here if
income men spend little time with their you haven't got anywhere to go.' Anyone will be
families. Ironically, the pressure to provide willing to take them in. Any family. But with a
prevents men from developing good man - no-one's going to take him in anywhere,
relationships with their children. Older men and less still if he's a dirty old devil [manoso].
may find that, having failed to invest
emotionally in their families during their If men are indeed less capable of looking
working lives, they are rejected when they after themselves and the home, they will
need support. Whereas being a mother is also find it more difficult to cope with

living alone in old age. In Mexico, and for the very elderly. Many children have
other countries, older men are documented genuine affection for their parents, and feel
as receiving less help from children, and morally obliged to help them. A woman in
having less contact with other kin than the older self-help settlement identified a
elderly women (Llera Lomeli 1996, sense of obligation towards her parents as a
Barer 1994). They also tend to be more specifically female responsibility, and even
readily isolated from their families and a right: 'We women take care of our parents
social networks by bereavement, owing to when they get old, because they're our parents,
weaker relationships in earlier life. As one it's our right and our duty to take care of them.'
respondent put it: 'It's more difficult for an Others expressed the responsibility to
elderly man to live alone, because people visit look after their parents in terms of a 'do-as-
women a lot more.' All these factors can you-would-be-done-by' logic: 'The way you
threaten men's well-being in old age. treated that person, that's the way they're going
to treat you.' This moral accounting
Living with family: a haven sometimes takes the form of an explicitly
for the elderly? Catholic morality: 'building up your stock of
virtue in heaven', as one 68-year-old
Living with family is usually thought to be grandparent put it.
a better option for older people. However, Some interviewees expressed
we should not assume that this guarantees appreciation of elderly people's
their well-being. In Mexico, we heard of 'folk knowledge': stories from the past,
cases where elderly people had been recipes, herbal remedies, and other
physically or emotionally abused at the lore that might otherwise be lost.
hands of their relatives. This intangible contribution to family life
Although we have suggested that was one of the main reasons that people
owning a home gives older people a gave for wanting to care for older relatives.
'bargaining counter' to exchange for care The flow of benefits in the relationship
from relatives, it can make them more is not, then, always unidirectional, with
vulnerable to abuse. When we asked elderly parents on the receiving end.
discussion-group members whether or not Children may remain with their parents
older people should put their children's because they cannot afford independent
name on property documents, the men in accommodation. Some stay in the hope that
the younger self-help settlement they will be left the house when their
immediately responded 'no!' - because, parents die. There has been a tradition of
said one, 'they'll chuck you out'. Both women the youngest son remaining at home,
and men cited examples of children caring for his parents and subsequently
cheating or trying to cheat their parents of inheriting the property. Although this is
their property, and the staff of government normally described as a rural tradition,
agencies legalising land tenure in self-help women with whom we talked in the inner
settlements told us of others. Most low- city agreed that it was usual to leave
income people who own a housing plot in property to either the youngest child or a
urban Mexico acquire the land illegally. daughter or son who had cared for their
Too often, people registering their property parents.
in a son's or daughter's name have ended Grandparents, especially grandmothers,
up 'out on the street'. often fulfil important functions within their
Of course, living with children is not children's household. They frequently help
always such a gloomy experience. It can be out with household chores or care for
an invaluable housing option, particularly grandchildren to enable another family
Family care of older women and men in urban Mexico 53

member to go out to work. While these years in a home? We found that men and
activities may be tiring for the elderly women reacted very differently to the
person, they can also help them to feel that prospect. Many women said they would
they are 'paying their way'. Accounts of like to live in a home: retaining their
mutually beneficial relationships between independence, resting, and receiving the
parents and children sharing care they need. Men, on the other hand,
accommodation should not, however, be flatly rejected the asilo for being 'like a
taken at face value. The idea of symbiosis, prison', where they would be badly treated.
though appealing, should be treated with Men's objection to institutional
some scepticism. At a workshop at which accommodation reflects their feelings about
we discussed these issues, one participant the (family) home. Many find it difficult to
who had worked on social provision for relate to the home, because they spend so
older people in Mexico City commented little time there during their working lives,
that listening carefully to women talking and because culturally the home is the
about their role within a relative's home woman's sphere. 'Men are for the street
may reveal insecurity and even fear and women for the home', as a Mexican
behind the rhetoric of mutual support. saying puts it. Many men we spoke
The gratitude they express towards their to appeared to feel far more 'at home'
relatives could be better described as a at work: when we asked older men to tell
'gratitud-esclavitud' (slavery-gratitude). us about the houses they had lived in over
Some women who were initially the course of their life, they often turned
enthusiastic about support groups that he the conversation around to their work,
had organised for them did not, in practice, not housing, history.
turn up. He later learned that they were
The things that make it hard for elderly
afraid to leave their daughters' homes or
men to adapt to the home also make it
neglect their domestic work (International
difficult for them to adapt to asilo life.
Research and Policy Workshop on
Homes for the elderly are generally run by
Reducing Vulnerability Among Families in
women, often nuns. Men can feel out of
the Mexico and US Border Region,
place in an environment where women are
Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF)
in control, and asilo rules are anathema to
National and University of Texas, Tijuana,
them, because they have been used to
March 1999).
coming and going as they please. 'Men want
As the authors of a study of women's to be free, they want to go wherever they like,'
lives in Cuernavaca have written, one asilo director told us: 'They're not used to
'poorer women were having to make being at home all the time, they always want
themselves as useful as possible to adult to be free, right?' (interview, Guadalajara,
children, thereby building up credit for the May 1998). Institutional life drives home to
time when their health failed and they men the fact that that they are now
could no longer "earn their keep'" (LeVine dependent, and they can experience this as
with Sunderland Correa 1993,193). an affront to their dignity. As the director
of an asilo for men told us, 'Here they have to
obey the rules and schedule. That's very hard
The asilo: attractive option for them and some of them never get used to it'
or prison sentence? (interview, Guadalajara, May 1998).
We have noted that the amount of Reluctance to face life in an institution
accommodation on offer in asilos is very may lead some men to end up on the
limited; but how do people in Guadalajara streets. In a study of vagrants in Mexico
respond to the idea of spending their later City, almost four out of five were found to

be men, with an average age of 53 families. It is ironic, however, that the very
(Montes de Oca 1999). Older men may also skills that enable older women to 'fit in'
be less welcome in mixed asilos than also make it easier for hard-pressed
women. According to staff, they are more relatives to feel that they will be all right on
troublesome: more often violent and even their own.
sexually abusive. The director of one home Researchers often warn against the
for older women in Guadalajara told us: dangers of translating policy prescriptions
'No one wants to look after men, even in their from one cultural context to another.
own homes. Women are loved more than men. It is tempting to interpret the strong
Men are more difficult in every respect' cultural emphasis on family solidarity in
(interview, Guadalajara, May 1998). Mexico as meaning that older people would
Institutional accommodation is not, be happiest living with their relatives.
then, always a viable solution for older We have tried to show that this is not
men. Its combination of home-like and necessarily the case, and that we should not
institutional characteristics makes it always take what people say on this matter
unpopular with them, as they are at face value. We are not suggesting that we
unaccustomed to having their freedom know better than older Mexican women
curtailed. Women's greater willingness to and men what is in their best interests.
contemplate life in an asilo may express To do so would be both unacceptably
both the desire to 'retire' from a life of arrogant and extremely foolish. What we
domestic labour, and the knowledge that are saying is that it is important to listen
women generally survive their husbands, very carefully to exactly what people are
and few can rely on being cared for by their saying. When your feelings are at odds
spouses. Perhaps seeing other women with cultural norms - for example, about
widowed leads women to think about their mothers putting their family first -
own options for the future more seriously you may half-hide them behind a fagade
than men. that is more culturally acceptable.
'Not wishing to be a burden on my
children' is a good example. Sometimes this
sentiment conceals a 'selfish' wish to get a
In his book Ageing in Developing Countries, bit of peace and quiet after a lifetime of
Ken Tout remarks on his impression that work, or a fear of being unwelcome.
the saddest individual experience tends to At other times, it can be taken at face value:
be that of the widowed aged man, the speaker means just what she says. It is
particularly where incompetence in the task of researchers and policy-makers to
domestic matters aggravates his try to distinguish between these different
abandonment. But, en masse, it is elderly possibilities, not on the basis of our own
women who are more likely to suffer preconceptions, but by being as sensitive as
problems (Tout 1989, 289). possible to the nuances of what people say,
Our research in Guadalajara supports and what lies behind their words.
this conclusion. While it is widowers In conclusion, we believe there are
abandoned by relatives whose plight may grounds for basing provision for older
be most acute, it is older women living people in urban Mexico on the same
alone who represent the greater challenge principle as in Europe or the rest of
for social policy: there are more of them. North America: supporting people living
We have seen that elderly women are more independently in their own homes as long
likely than men to live with, or be taken in as possible. Networks of relatives and
by, married sons or daughters and their friends living close to each other provide a
Family care of older women and men in urban Mexico 55

strong basis on which to build provision; INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica,

but policy-makers should not automatically Geografia e Informatica) (1993), La tercera
rely on the immediate family as the source edad en Mexico, INEGI, Aguascalientes
of accommodation and care for tomorrow's LeVine, S with Sunderland Correa, C
older people. (1993), Dolor y alegria: Women and Social
Change in Urban Mexico, University of
Ann Varley is a Reader at the Department Wisconsin Press, Madison
of Geography, University College, Llera Lomelf, S R (1996), 'Gender
26 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAP, UK. Differentials in the Housing Conditions
E-mail: of the Mexican Elderly, 1970-1990',
PhD Dissertation, University of
Maribel Blasco, who worked with Ann on this Pennsylvania
research project, is at Roskilde University, Lloyd-Sherlock, P (1997), Old Age and Urban
Denmark, where she is finishing her PhD Poverty in the Developing World:
on young people's experiences of schooling The Shanty Towns of Buenos Aires,
in Guadalajara. Macmillan, Basingstoke
Lopez, M P and H Izazola (1994), El perfil
Notes censal de los hogares y las familias en
Mexico, INEGI, Aguascalientes
1 Gendered Housing: identity and Montes de Oca, V (1999), 'Experiencia
independence in urban Mexico, Economic institucional y situacion social de los
and Social Research Council, UK, ancianos en la ciudad de Mexico', in
Research Grant R 000 23 6808. Ziccardi and Cordera (eds), Politica social
2 This calculation is based on data from en Mexico: decentralizacion, diseno y
INEGI (1993). The 1990 census recorded gestion, Instituto de Investigaciones
4,988,158 people of 60 years or more: Sociales, UNAM, Mexico City
6.2 per cent of the national population. Tout, K (1989), Ageing in Developing
3 Forty-five women of 60 or over Countries, HelpAge International and
expressed a preference. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Varley, A and Blasco, M (1999), "'Reaping
what you sow"? Older women, housing
References and family dynamics in urban Mexico',
in United Nations International Research
Barer, B M (1994), 'Men and women aging and Training Institute for the
differently', International Journal of Aging Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)
and Human Development, Vol. 38, No. 1, (ed.), Ageing in a Gendered World:
pp.29^0 Women's Issues and Identities, INSTRAW,
Contreras de Lehr, E (1992), 'Aging and Santo Domingo, 153-78
family support in Mexico', in Kendig,
Hashimoto, and Coppard (eds)
Family Support for the Elderly:
The International Experience, Oxford
University Press, New York, pp.215-23
de Vos, S (1990) 'Extended family living
among older people in six Latin
American countries', Journal of
Gerontology: Social Sciences , Vol. 45,
No. 3, pp.87-94
Transitions and boundaries:
research into the impact of paid work on
young women's lives in Jordan
Mary Kawar
This paper explores the economic and social impact of the growing participation of young urban
women in the workforce in Amman, Jordan. The writer argues that there is a new 'stage' in
women's life-course in Jordan: single, employed adulthood. This is expanding young women's
horizons, and challenging relationships between women and men, and between different generations,
at all levels of society, including within the household. However, traditional values concerning family
honour are challenged by this, and are sometimes being reinforced through new forms of control over
young women.

his article is based on research that I 1990s, and the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
undertook1 into the current trend for These conflicts prompted much business
young women in Amman, the capital and private capital to relocate to Jordan,
of Jordan, to take up paid employment. and, during the Iran-Iraq war, goods bound
I set out to explore how young women's for land-locked Iraq passed through
employment affects - and is affected by - Aquaba port in Jordan.
their relationships with their families, and However, Jordan's growth has been
how conventions about gender and age are hampered by two economic 'shocks'.
challenged by this development. The first of these was the debt crisis, and
Jordan, a small country in the the ensuing economic stabilisation policies
Middle East, has enjoyed remarkable of the late 1980s. During the 'oil boom'
growth over the past 30 years. Reasons for years, Jordan had accumulated billions of
this growth include its favourable dollars in debt (Satloff 1992). The global
geopolitical location during the oil boom in recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s
the neighbouring Arab Gulf Region in the caused an economic crisis in oil-producing
1970s. Jordanian skilled workers migrated countries, and this had a knock-on effect for
to the Gulf countries and sent substantial Jordan, reducing employment of migrant
remittances home as a result. In addition, workers in the Gulf, and reducing financial
Jordan has attracted substantial financial aid to the government of Jordan from the
aid from oil-rich Arab countries Gulf States. In addition, Iraq's invasion of
(World Bank 1994). A related reason for Kuwait in 1990 caused an alarming influx of
economic growth is Jordan's quasi-liberal an estimated 300,000 'returnee' migrant
regime, which has aimed to foster stability - workers into Jordan. In 1988, Jordan
and hence investment - in a turbulent unveiled a major austerity plan, including a
region of the world. Jordan has indirectly 50 per cent devaluation of the Jordanian
benefited in economic terms from two dinar, in addition to new duties and taxes
conflicts in the region: the civil war in to reduce the budget deficit.
Lebanon from the mid-1970s until the early
The impact of paid work on young women's work in Jordan 57

Employment in Jordan 1999). Second, the average age of marriage

has increased from 17 years in 1971 to
The economic crisis and subsequent almost 24 years in 1995 (ibid).
adjustment has affected the Jordanian
population in terms of inflation, and a The research
deteriorating standard of living. It has been
estimated that 23 per cent of the Jordanian Both quantitative and qualitative research
population was living below the national tools were used, including a survey of 36
poverty line in 1997 (El Solh 1999). private-sector employers, and a
Unemployment rates have increased questionnaire survey of women between
dramatically. Unemployment has always 20 and 30 years old, in 302 households in
affected women more adversely than Amman. The women were either working,
men in the Arab region as more limited unemployed, or economically inactive,2
types of occupations are available for them single, and not enrolled in education at the
(Economic Research Forum 1998; El-Solh time of the interview. I visited 40 of the
1999). In particular, a larger proportion of households again, to conduct more detailed
women is dependent on public-sector semi-structured interviews. These were
employment than is the case for men. In held with young women themselves, and,
1997, unemployment rates for women were depending on household circumstances,
28.5 per cent, compared with 11.7 per cent with other family members as well.
for men (Department of Statistics 1999). In general, respondents came from
Despite this, the underlying trend of large households, with an average of
employment patterns in Jordan seems to be 7.9 members. Household income varied
slow change in favour of women. widely, but the average annual per capita
Traditional stages in Jordanian women's income was US$963. The average
lives are based on rigid hierarchies educational attainment of respondents was
determined by gender and generation. quite high: 58 per cent had had post-
Women start out as girl-children and secondary education, and 40 per cent of
mature into unmarried adolescents, those who were employed worked in
dependent on their parents. Finally, they professional and technical occupations
become dependent wives and mothers. (most were teachers). Another 20 per cent
Young women's opportunities in worked in the manufacturing sector,
employment are expanding: despite low followed by 15 per cent in clerical
official rates of economic activity, women's occupations. However, despite the high
employment almost doubled between 1979 education levels and the tendency to work
and 1997, from 7.7 to 14 per cent of the in professional occupations, average wages
female population, and the rate of growth were quite low: 54 per cent of the sample
of female employment exceeded the rate of earned less than US$140 per month.
growth of male employment (Economic
Research Forum 1998). Other indicators of
change that shape women's ability to gain Family perceptions of
employment and transform their lives more young women's
generally are, first, increasing levels of employment
female education: illiteracy among women
The desirability of education and
decreased from 48 per cent in 1979 to
20 per cent in 1996, while 47 per cent of
those enrolling in tertiary education were Higher education was regarded in a
women in 1997 (Department of Statistics positive light by the families of women

involved in the study (even if it means to take pride in their daughters'

interacting with men, living away from achievements, despite the fact that they
home and so on). The women in the study remain unemployed. In fact, the young
are among the first generation to begin mechanic was almost regarded as a hero
reaping the benefits of expanding female within her household and neighbourhood,
educational opportunities, and subsidised for symbolically breaking gender barriers.
colleges and universities. As soon they learned of my research topic,
Among all income groups, higher neighbours directed me to her house,
education of daughters has become linked explaining that she had managed to train
to prestige. However, women's families for a man's job.
expect them to pursue studies that do Sometimes, parents had a narrow view
not challenge traditional female gender of educational attainment, and used this to
roles, and this expectation shapes justify restrictions on daughters'
women's choices. employment. For example, one young
In the process of gaining higher woman had a degree in finance. According
education, young women are exposed to to her parents, she could only aim to work
new ideas, different ways of life, and social in a bank, although she had many
freedom. Higher education nurtures opportunities for work as an assistant
ambition and creates aspirations for accountant in private companies. This was
economic and social independence. prohibited by her parents, who see small
These could be dampened by a lack of firms as presenting potential risk to their
employment opportunities, but it seemed daughter's reputation (see below).
that, for women whom I interviewed, the
experience of undertaking higher Acceptable types and conditions of work
education had in itself changed their Having established that there is a
attitudes to, and expectations of, life. disjointed relationship between
Employment, on the other hand, is educational attainment and subsequent
regarded by the young women's families as employment for young women in Amman,
a potential threat to traditional norms of we can now turn to the question of what
sex segregation. In cases where women parents see as acceptable work for their
have studied subjects in higher education daughters, and why they think as they do.
that are considered unsuitable for women, In the main, this hinges on notions that
families are particularly likely to place women and men should work segregated
restrictions on their daughters' from each other, in a 'respectable' working
employment. Such restrictions might environment. (Many, but not all, parents
include telling young women to find work share these ideas: many women do work in
that enables them to work close to home, mixed-sex environments.) One pre-
to work hours that will always allow them dominant concern among many families is
to reach home before dark, or to find that a daughter should be home before
single-sex working environments. dark. In general, women working as
For example, one young woman was teachers do not face difficulties here, since
encouraged to pursue a government- school days are short. This provides
sponsored youth-training scheme for another incentive for young women to
mechanics, but later she was not allowed to enter teaching, in addition to the fact that
seek employment. Her family considers teaching is considered a respectable female
that her skill could only be used in a 'male' job. Some manufacturing industries
job, which would be inappropriate for her. accommodate the needs of women workers
In such situations as these, parents tended to get home before dark.
The impact of paid work on young women's work in Jordan 59

Another form of restriction placed on has high rates of female employment in

young women is the location of their clothing and food-production enterprises.
workplaces. Social restrictions on women's Most workshops were literally down the
movement, and the importance of women's hill from this area. In the mornings and
good behaviour in public, mean that some afternoons it is possible to see groups of
parents do not allow their daughters to use young women walking to and from work
public transport, because this is used together. The second strategy, used by large
mostly by men. However, young women manufacturing employers, is to provide
reported that they have found solutions to transportation for their women workers.
this obstacle. For example, if there is a well- Many families find the working
known employer, and several women from conditions unacceptable in employment
the same community begin work there, in other kinds of establishments -
travel becomes acceptable, since young specifically small ones in the private sector.
women can commute together daily. Various reasons were given for this,
This serves many purposes: they can keep including the fact that working hours are
an eye on one another's behaviour; they longer. In addition, unlike large
tend not to be harassed by strangers, since establishments and public-sector employers
they are in a group; and, because more than (banks, the teaching professions, or
one woman commutes, it is hard for the manufacturers), employers do not provide
community to disapprove of their concessions for female labour such as
employment in distant parts of the city. transport or daylight working hours.
Another form of parental restriction on Finally, very few private-sector firms have
daughters' employment is that the family sex-segregated work spaces.
should know the prospective employer.
Thus, where possible, daughters work for Preventing sexual harassment at work
relatives, family friends, or neighbours. Many of the above restrictions put on the
If an employer happens to be unknown, the conditions of young women's work are
family will make inquiries about him; means of preserving the sexual reputation
that is, try to ascertain his 'reputation' of young women, and preventing sexual
(mainly as regards his attitude to, and harassment. The term 'sexual harassment' -
treatment of, women workers). When a which tends to be seen as actual physical or
young woman finds work, her father or verbal abuse - needs to be redefined in such
brothers will want to meet the employer a context. Women's reputations - and those
and finalise her conditions of employment of their families - are critical to their
face to face. A father will say to the futures, and may be harmed by the threat of
employer: 'I am entrusting you with my sexual harassment, or even by mere gossip.
daughter', and the employer answers: From the research, it seems that both
'Do not worry. She will be like my own young women and their families perceive
daughter as long as she is working here.' male employers in general to be potential
In turn, I was told, the employers threats to female workers' reputation.
who depend on young female labour Consequently, any employer who needs
exercise two strategies to accommodate female labour has to prove his innocence
family restrictions on female mobility. among the young women themselves, as
First, employers can set up their business in well as to their families. One strategy that I
proximity to labour supply, usually near encountered here was that an older woman
congested low-income neighbourhoods, (sometimes the wife of the employer) will
where women need to work. An example in work as the general supervisor in small
Amman is the area of Hai Nazzal, which workshops with exclusively female labour.

The preoccupation with keeping young they did not trust the boss or co-workers.
women's sexual reputations intact has Many of the young women interviewed
resulted in some cases in a rather rigid knew of stories about unknown women
form of male-boss/female-worker relations who have been taken advantage of in
in the workplace: employers need to act unknown workplaces. There was no way
like fathers, and young women need to act of telling whether these accounts were fact
like daughters, and it is necessary for or fiction.
young women and employers alike It seems that young women's need to
constantly to prove their innocence. This protect their sexual reputation reinforces
has been described as the 'de-sexualisation' their economic and psychological
of workplace communities, as men and dependence on their families. It was a
women seek to de-emphasise the sexual common belief among respondents that
connotations of their physical closeness in women in dire economic need are more
the workplace, and thus defuse the threat exposed to harassment by employers.
to their reputation (Kabeer 1995). Some women interviewees expressed
However, sometimes the idea of a relief that their own families would never
'father-daughter' relationship can allow expose them to situations where their
employers to harass young women. reputations might suffer, no matter what
One young woman told me: their economic needs.

'One day, my boss, whom I respect very much, Young women's views on
touched my hand and then my hair. I screamed. employment
He then said: "What's the matter? You are like
my daughter." He never touched me again. This section explores the perceptions
I think he was testing how I would react, and of young women workers themselves.
my reaction made him treat me like a daughter. How do they perceive the existing gender
He takes care of me, and recently asked the division of labour in employment?
management to give me a raise. All the other What do they think of their experience of
secretaries are jealous of me, and started employment? How does it affect their
rumours about me and my boss. He is a very perception of their role as daughters and
good man, and when he was sick I visited him siblings within the household? Finally, has
in hospital and gave him flowers. His wife does going out to work given them more
not like me.' personal autonomy to determine their own
paths in work and marriage?
Young women who know very few men,
apart from their own fathers and relatives, Attitudes towards 'acceptable' female
may find it hard to distinguish between work
harassment and filial relations. In addition, All young women respondents were asked
they may themselves become attracted to to say what they thought were the three
men whom they work with. (As in this most suitable professions for women.
particular case, this may take the form of A substantial number - 44 per cent -
innocent admiration or respect.) The fact said they thought that women should work
that young women are conditioned to see in professions consistent with their 'nature'
themselves as the vulnerable sex means as women. This particular attitude was
they may take measures to avoid similar among all women respondents,
harassment. For example, some young regardless of whether they were
women claimed to me that they had categorised as employed, unemployed,
refused employment opportunities because or inactive. Not surprisingly, 66 per cent of
The impact of paid work on young women's work in Jordan 61

the sample survey thought that the most home environments, where they are bored,
appropriate profession for a woman is and establish social contacts. Most of them
teaching. The reasons given were that it realise that there is a lack of future
is consistent with their roles as mothers. opportunities, but said that they do not
Also, 65 per cent of the sample survey aspire for more in any case.
thought that women should work in Even the young women who are in
sewing and embroidery - an extension of professional occupations, and should
women's 'natural' abilities in handiwork. therefore be able to establish a career, tend
Such attitudes are not necessarily to be seen by employers and families in
determined by what these young women terms of conventional gender roles.
think about female ability, but by the Ambitious young women may be afraid to
options that they perceive are available for distance themselves from their female and
women (Nawar et al 1995). Even those who male colleagues, and/or deter marriage
believe that women can perform any kind prospects through unconventional
of occupation would not necessarily take behaviour. Ambitious and confident
up the challenge of an unacceptable woman can be described in Arabic by
occupation. In assessing young women's employers and colleagues as mistarjileh.
attitudes towards the gender-typing of jobs, This has a double meaning: 'she is like a
therefore, differences must be made man', and 'she would rather be a man'.
between beliefs and actual behaviour. In other words, the aspirations that make
an enthusiastic or efficient worker are
What makes for work satisfaction? considered to be masculine.
Because of the various constraints placed Young women professionals in
on finding appropriate employment, very non-segregated occupations reported
few women are in what they perceive to be trying to work hard and yet remain
'unsatisfactory' working conditions. carefully 'feminine', avoiding being
However, since most respondents who are described as similar to men in their
working are employed in jobs that behaviour. This balance is achieved
are conventional for women, the through working hard and securing
overwhelming compromise is accepting employers' approval, while remaining
low pay: 17 per cent think they are generally undemanding and non-assertive.
underpaid. Despite this, women said they As one young woman architect explained:
rarely demand rises in pay, since they
know their working conditions are 'I am the only woman architect in our firm.
attractive to many other women. In finding Before my arrival the other women were the
appropriate working environments, secretaries. I work the hardest and currently
they are effectively constrained from have the heaviest load. However, when we need
expanding their earning powers. to go to the site, my boss sends my male
As far as personal fulfilment is colleagues. He says the labourers on the
concerned, it seems safe to say that very construction sites will not take me seriously.
few young women in low-paid jobs in When clients come, he never lets me sit in
conventionally 'female' sectors experience meetings, but male colleagues are usually
much sense of achievement. The majority, invited in. For this he always has excuses,
who are in the manufacturing sector or the like he does not want to waste my precious time.
lower echelons of the services sector, said I feel that if I want to continue with my current
that they did not really enjoy their work. work, which I enjoy and which gives me a lot of
The greatest - and only - satisfaction is that responsibility, I need to undermine my
they are able to move out of restrictive achievement, especially in front of my male

colleagues. As for my boss, he does appreciate He did not talk to me until I gave him money
me and never stops praising me, but only when the following month. My married sisters
we are alone.' continually expect me to loan them money
and give them presents. When I don't, they
Impact of earning income accuse me of being stingy. Work has brought
Perhaps the most revealing assessment of me nothing.'
the impact that earning income can have on
young women's lives came from those with In short, the impact of earning on the role
previous work experience, but who were and status of young women differs from
unemployed at the time of the interview. household to household. Earning
Several such women stated that when they sometimes increases status, and at other
were income-earners they were more times increases subjugation. The two
involved in family decisions, and felt that conflicting case studies above are both
they were treated with more respect than based on low-income families where young
their current situation. One young woman women's pay is limited. In higher-income
stated: households, the dependence on daughters'
wages is not an issue, and therefore
'These days, my brothers keep interfering in my does not pose threats to power relations -
life. They want to know where I go and who in particular, to the position of males.
I see. When I used to work, things were
different. They were hard up, and I used to loan Impact on personal autonomy
them money. It gave me so much pleasure, I asked about the issue of personal
because they could never interfere in my life and autonomy by focusing on two elements:
I even controlled their expenses. As soon as they first, the impact of work on physical
tried to assume the big-brother role, I would mobility and social freedom, and second,
threaten that I would not give them any more young women's personal aspirations and
money. One day, as I was leaving to visit a whether they manage to fulfil them.
friend, my brother wanted to know where I was However, the degree to which an
going. I said: "Listen, one more question and individual can behave autonomously
you hand back every penny you owe me right always depends on the specific or
now." Now, things have changed. It is they who individual social context (Nawar et al 1995).
are working and I am unemployed.'
Mobility and social freedom
However, there are also many young Physical freedom, in particular, is closely
women who did not feel that earning related to young women's psycho-social
income had any effect on their status within development as girls, irrespective of
the household. Several even thought that whether or not they are employed.
they would be better off if they were not Girls learn to fear being alone in certain
working. One stated: places from a young age, and this, in effect,
limits their confidence in being in public
'My mother expects me to do all the housework spheres as adults.
after my return from work. She thinks that since The young women in my research had
she always cared for us, now it's my turn to different concepts of freedom of movement.
care for her. She does not realise that I am One respondent defined it as being free to
exhausted, and accuses me that I am lazy. visit relatives, while for another it meant
All my father cares about is my money. being able to travel abroad. With this in
One month I could not give him any and he mind, I asked the young women to say
screamed: "Damn you and your money." whether they were free to go to various
The impact of paid work on young women's work in Jordan 63

specific destinations - the market, the Autonomy and personal aspirations

doctor's, to see friends, to see relatives, and Studies of the impact of employment on
to go abroad - and whether they had to be women's lives have paid limited attention
escorted or not. to personal aspirations. 'Despite a greater
Working women were more mobile sensitivity to changing gender and other
than women defined as economically divisions of labour based on age and
inactive. The degree of freedom of marital status within the household,
movement of working and unemployed attention to individual activities and
women was similar. For example, when aspirations frequently remain subsumed to
going to market, 76 of employed women a pre-occupation with the characteristics of
and 72 per cent of unemployed women the collective unit' (Sage 1993,243).
could go alone, compared with 49 per cent Since the period between childhood and
of economically inactive women. adulthood - youth itself - is traditionally
This suggests that freedom of movement 'squeezed out' of Arab women's life-
may be expanded through the fact of courses, young women learn to suppress
having been employed at some point. their personal hopes and aspirations, even
It is likely that some women who cease to if they continue, at a deep level, to long to
work can maintain the same amount of realise them. Many hopes and aspirations
freedom that they had gained through their relate to a desire to rise above the
employment. However, there is a limitations on their social freedom and
significant number of women, regardless of mobility.
employment status, whose freedom of
movement is dependent on being escorted 7 used to be a basketball champion at school,
by a family member or close friend. and my teachers recommended that I join the
When going to the market, 22 per cent national Jordanian team. My parents, of course,
of employed women, 25 per cent of refused. Since finishing school, I have not
unemployed women, and 39 per cent played any sport. I have such an urge to exercise
of economically inactive women that sometimes I lock myself in my room and
were escorted. just jump till I am exhausted.'
There is a general trepidation among
many young women in Jordan about In Jordan, the conventional physical and
being on their own in public spaces. social restrictions imposed on young
Young women may see themselves as women deny them many forms of
vulnerable and liable to attract unwanted expression. These aspirations concern
attention, so avoid venturing out on their things they have been exposed to at school,
own: not because they are prohibited from on television, or, in the case of one woman
doing so, but because many lack the self- who wanted to drive a car, on the street on
confidence to do so. As one young woman a daily basis. Such aspirations are
stated, 'When I am walking alone in the street, particular to their age group. Both fathers
I feel everyone is watching me.' and mothers have had a different life
In general, respondents felt that the experience, and are likely to misunderstand
attitudes of parents who insist on their and consequently block their daughters'
daughters being escorted are not a sign of desires. Most young women understand
distrust, but show concern about protecting this gap between themselves and their
their reputation and public image. parents, and rarely attempt to challenge it,
Many parents feel that young women have while being well aware of their
the relative freedom to choose to go predicament. In addition, they are usually
anywhere, as long as they are escorted. left with no social confidence to challenge

their parents. Employment gives many an overwhelmingly married society. As a

young women a route for self-expression, result, young women may tend to
and breaks the monotony of restricted lives. downplay the importance of economic
For many, it represents a symbol of their autonomy in order to fulfil their ascribed
desires to become independent adults. gender roles, even if they think it is
Attitudes towards marriage and future
gender roles
The concept of employment after marriage
was acceptable to more employed and This article has investigated the changes in
unemployed women than to women gender relations in Jordan, and the new
categorised as economically inactive. boundaries that are being negotiated as a
However, when attitudes towards result of young women's later age of
employment after having children were marriage, increasing education levels, and
explored, this difference in opinion wider employment opportunities. This is a
narrowed. It seems that when assessing new stage in the life-courses of Jordanian
young women's attitudes towards work women. Education and the possibility of
and marriage, the most meaningful employment have placed some young
distinction to be made is between a women in a position to balance taking up
working wife and a working mother. employment with conformity to
A substantial number of employed women conventional gender roles and relations.
said that they would ideally like to stop Although negotiating these changes is
work after having their first child. difficult and presents problems, some of the
Even those who believed that women women interviewed seem to have started
should not withdraw from the paid on a road to greater autonomy and
workforce as a result of motherhood personal fulfilment. One of the more
qualified their view as follows: 'As long as a important insights here is the complexity of
woman fulfils her duties as mother and wife, the relationship between women's
she should be able to continue with her work.' employment and the increased social
The idea that household chores should and economic autonomy of women.
be redistributed between women and men The greatest changes for women are more
was not in question: it was assumed that likely to be effected within the home,
working mothers and wives have dual rather than at a place of employment or
roles. Another group of women stated that through political change (Moore 1988).
work after marriage depends on 'family The centrality of the family in perpetuating
circumstances' - in other words, on unequal power relations between men and
financial need. These thought that a women cannot be overestimated.
mother's employment is legitimate when it
is for 'the family' or to 'help her husband'. Mary Kawar is the ILO's Specialist on Women
Despite these views, many respondents Workers and Gender Questions, at the ILO
were also keen to discuss the importance of Regional Office for Arab States, PO Box 11-
a wife's financial autonomy. This reveals 4088, Beirut, Lebanon. Fax: 961-1-752406,
that young women's experiences have e-mail: This article is based on a
exposed them to different ideas, and paper that was first delivered at a conference on
perhaps even empowered some of them to 'Adolescent Girls' Livelihoods: Essential
a degree, but they have also brought Questions, Essential Tools', at the Population
problems and dilemmas, chiefly regarding Council, Cairo, 13-14 October 1999.
the question of living as single women in The research was conducted before the author
The impact of paid work on young women's work in Jordan 65

joined the ILO, and opinions expressed here do Kabeer, N (1994) Reversed Realities:
not necessarily reflect the views of the ILO. Gender Hierarchies in Development
Thought, Verso, UK
Notes Kabeer, N (1995), Necessary, Sufficient or
Irrelevant? Wages and Intrahousehold
1 My research was undertaken for a PhD Power Relations in Urban Bangladesh,
degree completed in 1997. Working Paper 25, IDS, University of
2 I am using the standard ILO definition Sussex, UK
adopted in 1982. The unemployed are Kawar, M. (1997), 'Gender, Employment
defined as those 'without work', and Life Course: The Case of Working
'currently available for work', or Daughters in Amman Jordan',
'seeking work'. Work is assumed to be unpublished PhD thesis, London School
paid. I defined 'economically inactive' as of Economics
those with no desire to work, rather than Lin Lean Lim (1996), More and Better Jobs for
those who are simply not taking active Women: An Action Guide, International
steps to seek work. This is because many Labour Office, Switzerland
women in the context in Jordan (and in Moore, H (1988), Feminism and
many other contexts) do not have the Anthropology, Polity Press, UK
freedom to seek work, regardless of their Papps, Ivy (1993), 'Attitudes to female
desire, sometimes because they lack the employment in four Middle Eastern
access to formal channels to seek work. countries', in Afshar (ed): Women in the
(For more on definitions of employment Middle East: Perceptions, Realities and
status or measurements of female Struggles for Liberation, Macmillan Press,
labour-force participation, see Lim 1996, UK
and Anker and Anker 1995). Nawar, L, Lyod, C and Ibrahim, B (1995),
'Women's autonomy and gender roles in
References Egyptian families', in Makhlouf
Obermeyer (ed): Family, Gender and
Abu Lughud, L (1993), Writing Women's Population in the Middle East:
Worlds: Bedouin Stories, University of Policies in Context, American University
California Press, USA of Cairo Press, Egypt
Anker and Anker (1995), 'Measuring Sage, C (1993), 'Deconstructing the
female labour force participation with household: women's roles under
emphasis on Egypt', in Khoury and commodity relations in highlands
Moghadam (eds): Gender and Bolivia', in Momsen and Kinnard (eds):
Development in the Arab World, Zed, UK Different Places, Different Voices:
Department of Statistics (1999), Women and Gender and Development in Africa, Asia
Men in Jordan: A Statistical Portrait, and Latin America, Routledge, UK
Department of Statistics, Amman, Jordan Satloff, R (1992), 'Jordan's great gamble:
Economic Research Forum (1998), economics of crisis and political reform',
'Economic Trends in the MENA Region'. in Barkey (ed), The Politics of Reform in
Website: the Middle East, St Martin's Press, USA
El-Solh, C (1999), 'Gender Poverty and World Bank (1994), Hashemite Kingdom of
Employment in the Arab Region', paper Jordan Poverty Assessment, Vol. 1, report
presented at the Sub-Regional Planning number 12675-JO, World Bank, USA
Seminar on Gender Poverty and
Employment for the Arab States, Beirut,
Lebanon, 1^4 December 1999.
Community research on
older women in the
Dominican Republic
Jacquie Cheetham and Wendy Alba

This article looks at action-research into the interests and needs of older women in 11 urban
communities in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The research was instigated by Aauelarre
(CEAPA), with help from International Co-operation for Development (ICD); Fundompromued
(the Dominican Foundation for the Protection of Women of the Third Age); and informal women's
groups. The findings of the research have become the basis offurther community development work,
which is being undertaken by the older women themselves.

he Dominican Republic (DR) is one of 34 per cent of the population is under 14
the Spanish-speaking Caribbean years (CIA 1999). However, there are
islands, with a population of growing government concerns, which are
8 million (Centre of National Statistics), of shared by NGOs working with older
whom approximately 2.5 million live in its people, about the welfare of the DR's
capital, Santo Domingo. According to some elderly. Currently, the official figure for the
international studies, about half of the proportion of the population aged over 60
country's population - some 3,300,000 is 6 per cent, and it is estimated that this
people - live in poverty (The World Guide will grow to 14 per cent by 2030 (Centre of
1997/8,30). National Statistics). There is currently no
The DR was the first colony established social-security provision for older people,
in the Americas by Christopher Columbus unless they have been employed as civil
in 1492. The DR has had a tumultuous servants. Basic services including water,
history, beginning with the genocide of its sanitation, and electricity supplies are
indigenous population, the importation of inadequate: for example, only 59 per cent
African slaves from the start of the sixteenth have access to safe drinking water
century (which enabled the DR to become a (The World Guide 1997/8). The lack of State
major sugar-producing country), and later support, allied to the poor public health
occupations by neighbouring Haiti, and the service, and year-round hot and humid
United States of America. The DR has been weather conditions, leave many older
ruled by a number of powerful dictators, people at risk of disease and illness.
who have played a key role in suppressing Another factor that is important
the social, economic, and political in understanding the situation of the
development of the nation.1 elderly is changes in roles and attitudes
However, today there is a thriving with economic globalisation, growing
interest in politics among the population, urbanisation, and deepening poverty.
which is relatively young, in common with There is a common conception in many
many other Latin American countries: 'developed' countries that the older people
Community research on older women in the Dominican Republic 67

in poorer 'developing' countries are valued The focus groups included some women
and respected as important community aged below 55 who were interested in
members, and have clear roles. However, participating. The research was planned
this seems to be changing fast. and implemented with the invaluable help
of women community leaders, who acted as
Working with older women group co-ordinators, observers of the
research process, and evaluators.
Since 1993, Aquelarre has been working in
Santo Domingo, to end child abuse and
violence against women in the home, Problems and needs
promote good health among women, and identified
the well-being of older women. Our anti-
violence work is in partnership with other Women were encouraged to identify their
women's groups in DR, but ours was the needs and problems, rank them in order of
only organisation in DR to focus specifically priority, and identify any solutions that
on older women as a target group. they felt would resolve these problems.
Aquelarre began working with older Most women identified health as their
women as a separate socio-economic group major concern, followed by economic issues
in 1993, inviting them to join support and education. The fourth priority
groups and learning about the needs identified was 'family aspects': that is, their
of the groups. Women in communities on relationships with their families, family
the western fringe of Santo Domingo have problems, and the needs of their children,
formed community groups, while some grandchildren, and other relatives.
women from 12 communities from eastern (It should be noted that throughout the
Santo Domingo formed their own research there was a tendency for
organisation - Fundompromued - in participants to focus on the needs of their
July 1997. loved ones, rather than their own needs and
Aquelarre has continued to work in problems.)
partnership with Fundompromued, and, in
1998, the organisations began a joint study Health
of the needs and priorities of older women One of the principal rights with respect to
in 11 communities in the north-east and older people defined by the United Nations
north-west of the city (nine communities with respect to older people specifies the
where Fundompromued had a presence, right of maintaining health: 'Older people
and two others where informal support should have access to health care to help
groups had formed). The areas we focused them maintain their optimal level of
on are densely populated, economically physical, mental and emotional health and
poor, and lack basic services. During the to prevent deterioration and the
course of the research, participants commencement of illness' (UN Principles
identified a series of social problems in the for Older Persons, Article 11).
areas, including insecurity, delinquency, When they were discussing health, older
drug abuse, disputes with neighbours, and women seemed to be most comfortable
lack of recreational spaces. about identifying their own personal needs,
The research was informed by action- rather than focusing only on the needs of
research principles.2 Techniques included their families or communities. 85 per cent of
individual interviews with 70 older women, those involved in the research identified
focus-group sessions with 120 women, and health as their number-one personal
interviews with key community members. priority. Two representative comments

were: 'Health is the most important' and '... families. It is ironic that such points need to
without health there is nothing'. be made, bearing in mind 'the number of
Many conceptualise old age as a stage older people leading the governments and
of life where people suffer a physical and institutions of the world' (Garrett 1993, 99.)
mental deterioration. While the physical While the majority of older people
changes associated with the ageing process maintain their mental abilities, it is of
are visible to all, good health requires course possible that health problems can
both emotional and physical well-being. arise in older people. The women involved
When we asked key community members in the action-research felt that good health
what they considered to be old age, a large and adequate health care were essential to
proportion replied that they viewed their enjoyment of their lives as older
' old age' not only as the number of years women. They discussed their physical
that a person has lived, but also as an health problems, the lack of public health
attitude or emotional state. It was pointed services, and the prohibitively high cost of
out that old age is usually seen as a private heath provision. Lack of basic
negative stage of life. It is equated with services was seen as a major problem for all
a lack of energy, illness, lack of desire involved in the research - older women
to do things, lack of vision, serious and other community members alike.
and conservative behaviour, and so on. The older women pointed out that the lack
Older women all too often internalise such of water and electricity in the areas where
myths and stereotypes about themselves, they live often results in more work for
which are common in many contexts. them, and in health problems. If services
Some older women in the research used could be provided, life would change
phrases like 'I am like a girl of 16' in a dramatically.
positive way, implying that it is a good There are few specialist health facilities
thing for an older woman to behave as if for older people in the DR, and little
she is younger. The women who used such education on the health needs of older
phrases said they mean that they are people. In our research, many older women
energetic, fun-loving, and happy. discussed mental health problems in
Such stereotypes are very misleading. relation to the impact of poverty, social
The emotional problems of weakness and isolation, and family difficulties. It is clear
lack of physical energy are not solely that health services need to be holistic in
experienced by older people. Not all young their approach, and social services need to
people have the positive attributes listed be developed alongside medical ones, in
above; rather, some people are challenged order to facilitate a healthy old age.
by depression, lack of energy, or illness Some health problems associated with
throughout their lives. In the words of one ageing are caused by physical problems,
of the women in the research, 'lack of and others by social difficulties.
strength ... this is my problem from birth'. The majority of these may be temporary
In contrast, the majority of the older and could be reversed with treatment, but
women with whom we work do not others may be permanent, and it is very
experience old age as a stage of either important to distinguish between problems
emotional or mental deterioration. On the that can be treated, such as depression, and
contrary, they are active, keen to work and more permanent problems which do not
plan strategies to improve their lives and have a known treatment at this stage, such
resolve their problems, and preoccupied as as dementia, in order to treat people
much with the future of their communities appropriately (Garrett 1993, 99). It is not
as with their own future or that of their uncommon for treatable health problems
Community research on older women in the Dominican Republic 69

to be overlooked, while dementia is governments claim that the responsibility of

assumed to be the problem (ibid). Health caring for older people lies with their
professionals need to be educated and families. This response not only ignores the
sensitised to these issues, and not rely on needs of older people who do not have a
myths and stereotypes to inform their family, but also denies older people their
decisions. independence. Forty-seven per cent of the
participants survive (completely or partly)
Economic issues on money that their children give them.
Women do not only suffer discrimination in Sixty-one per cent said that they lived with
their older age, but have lived through their families, and many of them reported
'years of disadvantageous positioning in that this was chiefly for economic reasons.
the labour market and the pervasive Many told us that they found it very
discrimination that women encounter difficult to be economically dependent on
throughout their lives in schooling, work their families, and said that they would like
and housing. As a consequence, many to achieve more independence through
women find themselves in poverty after work, if they were able to get jobs.
retirement' (39th Session Report of the One woman told us that she needs work
CSW).3 'of an independent nature, so that I wouldn't
have to be depending on the family'.
This general statement is borne out by
the research findings, which confirm that Forty per cent said that their primary
many older women in Santo Domingo lack income is self-generated. On-going
sufficient money to cover even their basic discrimination against older women in the
necessities. The women talked extensively labour market leaves them few
about their vulnerable economic position. opportunities to change this situation.
Typical comments included: 'We are hungry Some women in our research had
and we have no money.' ... 'There is a lot of encountered discrimination against them in
poverty ... At 11 or 12 in the morning ... large-scale industrial employment.
the children have not eaten - a lot of older people 'Sometimes they don't let you work (in the
have great needs.' ...'There is no money. industrialfree-tradezones) because you are old
I have six children, and I need to work to ..., because they don't want you'. There is high
support the family.' unemployment in the Dominican Republic
Forty-seven per cent of the older women in general, but the women suggested that
involved in the research are heads of there should be places where older people
households, 36 per cent are in households could work: 'We need a zone for older people, a
headed by their spouse, 9 per cent in zone of work, something for us to do'.
households headed by their children, and Discrimination also exists both in
the remaining 9 per cent are in other private-sector businesses and in private
household formations. Eighty-nine per cent houses that employ domestic workers.
of the households that women formed a One participant told us: 'For an older person,
part of also included their children or if they want to work, there is almost nowhere ...
grandchildren, nieces or nephews. they don't even want an older woman to work in
Only 5.7 per cent of the women in the the house ...' (Villa Esfuerzo, Los Solares).
study receive a State pension: the money Another said: 'It is not easy - they don't want
that they receive is, in any case, very an old woman, because they say they don't want
meagre: not enough to live on for a week, to bring death into the house.' In all, only
let alone a month. In many developing 16 per cent of the women in our research
countries where there are little or no social- said that they worked outside the home
security provisions for people in old age, for money.

Twenty-four per cent of the participants they support themselves, or free others to
showed great resourcefulness in eking out work, but because they contribute to the
a living through selling their services and wellbeing and development of their
working from home, in mainly traditional community. Even those who are vulnerable
female roles: 13 per cent said they wash, and in need of economic and social support
cook, or sell food items and other things can play a part in shaping the future by
from home for money; 11 per cent said that sharing their past experience with the
they get paid for caring for children or younger generations' (Payne 1995).
other people, from their own or other
families. Education
Economic necessity apart, many older While education is often associated with
people still wish to work, and continue children and young people only, women in
contributing in a multitude of ways, using the study did not only stress its importance
skills that they have developed over years. for their children and grandchildren, but
The women in the research stated very they identified it as a need they face
clearly that they wanted to work not only themselves. The desire for education is
for economic reasons, but also from a fuelled by the belief that with education
desire to feel useful and active in the one can improve life, both economically
community, acknowledging the fact that and emotionally. Sixty-eight per cent of
work and self-esteem are intertwined. those interviewed4 said that they could
Women said they were proud of the work read and write, compared with an overall
that they had done in their lives, and proud literacy rate in the DR of 82 per cent.
that they still had the ability and strength However, among those who said they
to work. 'I feel proud: I am 68 and have done a could read and/or write, we observed
lot of work.' 'I have the desire and energy to many having significant difficulty doing
work like any other.' so, beyond writing a few words or their
Throughout the world, older women names. Because of this, it was often difficult
undertake long hours of unremunerated to find a scribe to record the small-group
work within the home. Eighty-three per activities.
cent of the women in the research said that Many women said that they wanted
most of their time is spent in household to strengthen their literacy skills.
chores. Forty-nine per cent said they spend They challenged their exclusion from
a lot of time caring for their grandchildren, educational opportunities, and were very
but only 11 per cent are paid for this work. keen to become involved in workshops and
Throughout the life-course, women's courses in order to learn: 'We want to
unpaid work in the home goes largely educate ourselves, to pass our old age learning
unrecognised by policy-makers, and is to be useful or more useful'. The w o m e n said
often not appreciated by the community. they needed an opportunity to learn
However, it is a great support to the family. alongside each other as older women, a
In the DR, as in other areas of the curriculum focusing on the topics and
world, the work of older women provides themes that they are interested in, transport
the opportunity for the mothers and fathers to educational facilities, financial support
of young children to work outside the to pay for education, and understanding of
home without the worry of child-care. any limitations on grounds of health and
'Older women are not the passive other commitments.
consumers of benefits sustained by the Women also said that they were keen
efforts of a younger workforce. They are to be education providers as well:
productive in old age, not only because 'Those that know something can teach others,
Community research on older women in the Dominican Republic 71

although it may not be the quality of a teacher' In contrast to the role of adviser, which
While some women were keen to teach many have lost, women in these Santo
children, others wanted to teach other Domingo communities do retain a very
women, and exchange their knowledge active practical role, as carers for their
with others. grandchildren. Although many women
were enthusiastic about this role, some
'Family aspects' pointed out that they lacked the physical
As stated earlier, women in the research and mental strength to bring up a second
selected 'family aspects' (relationships with generation of children. Typical comments
their family) as the fourth most pressing were: 'They leave the children here a lot, and it
issue facing them. During the course of the distresses me too much, to the point that I feel
research, we saw that the women were bad from the tension.' Another said: 'In part I
always thinking of their families and the feel good, because I have become accustomed to
problems of their family members. the children, but sometimes 1 get too desperate
We constantly reminded them to think of ... I don't know what to do with them. It makes
the issues that they themselves faced, and me want to cry, the way they make me feel.'
that were experienced by older women in Discussions at the focus-group sessions
general. However, this was difficult. about the difficulties of being a
For example, women did not tend to look grandmother highlighted the fact that often
at their own economic poverty in isolation there is no private or personal space for
from that of their families. Because their them within the house.
communities are very poor, the issue of Caring for grandchildren limits older
family survival colours women's attitudes women's options and independence.
to many of the issues facing them as This was clear during the course of the
individuals. The women emphasised that if research, when we found that it was often
they had more money, they would be able very difficult for women to attend meetings
to solve many of their family problems. with us; some partly solved the problem by
The experience of migration shapes bringing their grandchildren with them.
older women's roles and status in family Many women expressed discontent with
and community. The majority of older their families for having such expectations
women in the research - including 90 per of them and putting pressure on them in
cent of the women who completed the this way.
individual questionnaires - had migrated The treatment of older people obviously
from a rural area to Santo Domingo earlier varies between families, but there
in their life-course. These moves had was widespread recognition of the
usually occurred for family and economic maltreatment of older women in the family,
reasons. Women in our research said they and in society in general. One woman
believed that if they still lived in rural stated: 'They don't give you care, they don't
areas, they would have retained traditional give you affection, don't pay attention to the
roles as advisers to younger people, and opinions of older people and have a lack of
would have been respected figures in the affection to the older people'. This, she
community. Organisations representing the admitted, is 'not in all cases, but it happens'.
interests of older people, including The perception that there is a lack of
HelpAge International, have argued that respect for the older women from their
these roles within the community children and grandchildren was also
contribute to the preservation of older mentioned frequently. 'I have a son who
people's dignity and well-being and doesn't respect me. I am tired of talking and not
ultimately to their health (Garret 1993). being listened to.'

Solutions identified by present, it is operating with three

participants permanent and one temporary full-time
members of staff. Despite these constraints,
The second stage of the action-research was the energy and commitment of the older
to encourage participants to identify women who participated in our action-
practical solutions to their problems. research is inspiring for us to witness.
First, they identified possible solutions Participants in the action-research have
available to individuals. These included now selected a group of over 20 women
'the help of other people', 'co-operation', from over 15 communities as community
'self-help', and 'divine power'. Next, they representatives. Despite the large distances
identified solutions available to a group of between the communities in the north-east
people. These included a striking and north-west of the city that participated
acknowledgement of the power of group in the research, and the difficult transport
work as a motivator for participation and conditions, which mean that a journey from
self-improvement, summed up in the west to east takes between one and two
words of one participant: 'If we are all hours, women are now meeting monthly or
together we have force, and being together, bi-monthly to share the experiences from
accompanying each other - in this way we can their work. They report that they are a
gain anything.' constant source of inspiration and
The women then discussed where they encouragement to each other.
thought they could find help for these The community representatives are
problems. Naturally, some groups in currently being trained as multiplicadoras
particular areas of the city were more aware (community educators, trainers, and
than others of the resources and networks facilitators), by project workers from
available. In all, women identified public Aquelarre's new project, 'Gender and the
bodies responsible for different services, Third Age'. This project was started as a
including public health services, the town result of the research. Both of us have
hall, the police, syndicates, the Institute of contributed to training sessions, along with
the Family (a government body), the other local educators. The women
Secretary of Education, and other officials themselves have selected the topics and
and departments of the State. They also areas that they consider as priorities for
identified private businesses and training. They then reproduce training
neighbourhood groups. Other solutions sessions in their communities, and pass on
identified included 'the government in what they have learned.
general', the President, and God. Fundompromued, Aquelarre's partner
As part of the action-research process, in the action-research, has received a small
all the different groups met each other and grant from the National Lottery Fund of the
shared the results of the research; in this UK, through the Committee for a Dignified
way, they were able to learn from each Old Age (an alliance of local government
other about what was available to them. and NGOs working together to lobby the
central government), and HelpAge
Results of the action- International. Fundompromued has used
research the grant to purchase machinery and
materials to begin training courses in the
Like many centres of its kind in both production of dolls, table-cloths, and
developing and developed countries, household goods. Subsequently, it has
Aquelarre suffers from a constant shortage begun to sell its products locally on a small
of funds and threats of funding cuts: at scale. It has also managed to get an
Community research on older women in the Dominican Republic 73

agreement with a local doctor to run a services to older people, including a system
small health clinic once a week for the older of social security.
women in north-eastern Santo Domingo.
It is presently trying to raise enough capital }acquieCheetham(jacquie_cheetham@
to purchase a flat to use as premises for its and Wendy Alba (
activities, and to enable it to provide work for El Centro de Apoyo Aquelarre.
services. All these activities have developed
as a result of the issues raised as priorities
during the action-research.
The other two community groups 1 For more background information on the
involved in the research have also received Dominican Republic, see The World Guide
a small grant from the UK Lottery Small 1997/8, and Ferguson 1992.
Grants Fund, to open a Community Centre 2 For further information on these
for Older Women: this will be the first in principles, see Pretty et al., 1995.
the country. Here, services offered will 3 Point 110, p.54.
include weekly exercise classes, health 4 We tried to collect statistical information
services, educational and literacy classes, a of this nature in individual interviews.
support group, and a small coffee shop.
An integral part of the work of establishing References
the Centre is developing a plan for how to Alba, W and Cheetham, J (1999),
make the centre self-sustainable after the 'Diagnostic Comunitaio con mujeres
funds have ceased in a year's time. maoyres'; CEAPA, Dominican Republic
During the action-research, participants (unpublished as yet)
frequently emphasised that they needed CIA (1999) The World Fact Book
solutions now to address poverty and lack http: / / / cia / publication /
of services: they have therefore prioritised factbook/
the activities outlined above. At the same Ferguson, J (1992), The Dominican Republic:
time, they are involved in other activities, Beyond the Lighthouse, Latin America
including participating in talks and Bureau, UK
interviews with the local media, and Garrett, Gill (1993), Adding Health to Years: a
holding activities in their communities to basic handbook on older people's health,
change the perception of older people and HelpAge International
to promote intergenerational mixing. HelpAge International -
The women in each of the communities are
involved in the activities of Red por Una Payne, K (1995), ' Shaping the future -
Vejez Digna (Network for a Dignified Old the contribution of older women'
Age), an alliance of local government and in Sharman (ed.), Older Women in
NGOs, working together to lobby the Development, HelpAge International, UK
government. Pretty, J, Guijt, I, Thompson, J, and
In September 1998, the Network Scoones, I. (1995), A Trainer's Guide for
celebrated the result of its work: new Participatory Learning and Action,
legislation on the rights of older people in International Institute for Environment
the Dominican Republic. The Law for the and Development (IIED) Participatory
Protection of Older People (No. 352-98) Methodology Series, Russell Press, UK
is a great step forward in favour of older The World Guide 1997IS, CD-ROM,
people in the DR. The Network must now Hillco Media Group, Storgatan, Sweden
lobby the government to comply with
the law, which guarantees rights and
Girl-trafficking, HIV/AIDS,
and the position of women
in Nepal
Pratima Poudel and Jenny Carryer

This article focuses on trafficking of young Nepalese girls and women. Trafficking is an integral
part of the social and economic fabric of Nepal, as in other parts of the world. The practice
causes intolerable degradation and suffering for the girls and young women involved, who are
treated as a commodity. It presents a risk to their physical and mental health, and in particular
to their sexual health. The article examines the connections between coercive sex work and
HIV infection, and community and government responses to HIV infection among trafficked
sex workers. In particular, it considers the current AIDS prevention and control programme
in Nepal, and criticises it from the feminist perspective of the authors, who are a Nepalese nurse
who has undertaken academic work in New Zealand related to women's health, and a
New Zealand feminist academic, who is also a nurse.

t present, very high numbers of Control Act (1987), and the Special
young girls are being taken across Provisions of Human Trafficking Act
Nepal's borders, as trafficked sex (1996). These laws impose penalties of 5-20
workers, to destinations that include India. years for trafficking, depending on the level
The number of girls being trafficked to of involvement. However, trafficked girls
India is estimated to be 5,000-7,000 per and women are mostly illiterate and poor,
year, with 20 per cent of them aged under and are therefore very unlikely to be able to
16 (Thapa 1997). Trafficking causes fight against trafficking in a court of law. If
immense suffering to individual girls and someone decides to file a case, the slow
women, and as such should be of extreme pace of investigative and judicial processes
concern to all human-rights activists, and constant political intervention
governments, and non-government discourage her from fighting to the end.
organisations (NGOs) concerned with Another discouraging fact is that the State
human development. It is widely does not provide protection for witnesses.
acknowledged at international level to be a The trafficking of girls and young
serious violation of human rights, both women in Nepal has its roots in gender
internationally and in Nepal itself. In 1949, politics and sexual inequalities, linked to
the United Nations passed a Convention widespread economic poverty. Nepal is one
for the Suppression of the Traffic in of the poorest countries in the world, with a
Persons and of the Exploitation of the gross domestic product (GDP) of US$1137
Prostitution of Others. Nepal is a signatory (CIA 1999). About 85 per cent of the
to this, which should logically lead to a population live in the rural areas, and
commitment to prosecute traffickers. agriculture is the main source of
The trafficking of girls and women for livelihoods. Nearly half of Nepal's
prostitution is publicly recognised in Nepal population lives below the poverty line.
to be a social evil: this is reflected in The level of educational attainment is very
legislation against it, for example New low, with one-third of males and two-thirds
Muluki Ain (1963), the Human Trafficking of females having never attended schools in
Girl-trafficking, HIV I'AIDS, and the position of women in Nepal 75

rural areas (Ministry of Health/ marriages for girls, or promise employment

New Era/DHS1997) in Nepal or in foreign countries, and then
The Constitution of the Kingdom of sell them to brothels. Others may stage a
Nepal (1990) states that 'all citizens shall be rape, after which the girl is obliged to enter
equal before the law ... No discrimination enforced prostitution. Some groups of
shall be made against any citizen in the brokers kidnap girls, then sell them at
application of general laws on grounds of auction (Ghimire 1996, O'Dea 1993).
religion, race, sex, tribe or ideological Nepalese politicians are themselves
conviction or any of these'. Despite this involved in this 'business', and this reduces
principle, discrimination against women the efficiency of government agencies and
starts at birth, with differing ways of non-government organisations who attempt
rearing a girl and boy child. Education for to promote and enact policies to control
girls is often regarded as a wasted the practice (Pradhan 1996).
investment, as girls will leave the family
eventually, tradition demanding that every
girl be married. About two-thirds of Attitudes to HIV-positive
children of primary-school age (6-10 years) trafficked women
who are not enrolled are girls (NESAC Recently, the new disease of HIV/AIDS has
1998). There is a strong relationship increased the suffering caused by
between female education and age at first trafficking for both individual abused
marriage: women marry on average at the women, and for the wider society.
ages of 16, 16.9, and 19.8 years, depending HIV /AIDS and other sexually transmitted
respectively on whether they have had no diseases are now prevalent across the urban
formal education, primary education only, and rural sectors of Nepal. In 1995, the
or secondary schooling (Ministry of World Health Organisation estimated
Health/ New Era/DHS 1997). Women's 26,000 HIV-positive adults and children, at
participation in politics is negligible, the adult infection rate of 0.24 per cent
despite a 5 per cent reservation for female (WHO/UNAIDS 1997). These diseases are
candidates in parliamentary and local spread through sexual transmission,
government elections. including heterosexual sex, which occurs
The people who deliver young girls and within many different contexts, including
women into the hands of brokers are commercial sex; and through other means,
generally people in whom the girls have including drug abuse.
placed their trust, and this shows the The main source of AIDS transmission
degree to which such practices are covertly in Nepal is heterosexual contact
accepted. As late as 1951, there was a (Gurubacharya 1997). Currently, there are
custom in Nepal of selling or presenting increasing numbers of young Nepalese
beautiful girls to the palaces, to serve as girls living within Nepal, having been
concubines and maids. This 'trafficking' returned home by Indian brothel-keepers.
may have ceased, but a new form - cross- Usually, the owners or the operators of
border trafficking - has taken its place brothels return women and girls to Nepal
(Pradhan 1996). Most of the girls and when they are suspected of having AIDS
women currently trafficked to India and (Maiti Nepal 1997). In the mid-1990s, there
other destinations are abducted by were about 13,500 very young Nepalese
traffickers, having been sold by their girls in Bombay alone who were HIV-
own next-of-kin, parents, relatives of their positive (Dixit 1996). In November 1998,
husbands, or 'friends of the family' Nepal's National Centre for AIDS and STD
(O'Dea 1993). Some brokers arrange sham Control reported 1,175 HIV/AIDS cases,

whereas unofficial estimates claim that Some national and international NGOs,
there are 20,000-25,000 infected Nepalese including Maiti Nepal, ABC Nepal, and
(Maiti Nepal 1997). According to them, CWIN, are currently active in the
60-70 per cent of the prostitutes returning prevention of girl-trafficking and in the
from India carry HIV or other STDs. rehabilitation of trafficked girls.
There are no reliable figures, mainly due to They provide the returnees with food and
under-reporting and unrecognised cases. shelter, psychological treatment, medical
The medical and social needs of those treatment, legal support, and non-formal
returning to Nepal, in such circumstances, education like training in basic literacy,
are considerable. These women need tailoring, weaving, and fabric-painting.
medical services for physical treatment,
they need emotional and counselling The AIDS prevention and
support, and they need to maintain control programme:
confidentiality (Suvedi 1997). However, a critique
there is widespread ignorance and
prejudice about HIV/AIDS-related illness In co-ordination with NGOs, the AIDS
and death in Nepal. HIV-positive ex- prevention and control units of the
prostitutes are usually rejected by their government of Nepal have undertaken
families, as well as ostracised by the wider several activities since 1995 (Gurubacharya
society. These attitudes are perpetuated by 1997). The AIDS-prevention programme,
a very low literacy rate in rural areas, as formalised in 1996, has focused on
discussed above. If the HIV-positive status provision of information. A campaign has
of ex-sex workers comes to the attention of been carried out, using electronic media,
the police, they may be subjected to including radio and television, and face-to-
physical and mental torture, enforced face dialogues, via workshops and
medical examinations, and public exposure, seminars. In addition, the prevention
often in the media, which will result in programme has included surveillance of
their being stigmatised for the remainder the regions of the country (in particular, the
of their lives (Ghimire 1996). Kathmandu valley), where trafficking and
Even if ex-sex workers can avoid such sex work is prevalent. This is carried out by
treatment on re-entering Nepal, they have social workers, and supported by NGOs.
few alternatives for survival. There is very Outreach clinics give health education and
little support from development policy offer condoms. People suffering from
or practice, whether governmental or AIDS-related illnesses are referred to other
non-governmental, for women who have health providers for treatment.
been trafficked and return to Nepal. The way in which sexuality is
Skills-development programmes started by understood in a society determines the
the Ministry of Social Welfare for the measures that it decides to take to prevent
general population are insufficient to meet sexually transmitted diseases, including
the level of need (ibid). The State has not HIV/AIDS. In Nepalese society, sexual
established rehabilitation centres for such relations are only understood as
returnees, although in the current context heterosexual encounters, and all other
this may not be desirable or effective. forms of sex are deemed illegal, as well as
Many young girls and women who still culturally unacceptable. Many women are
have good health return to making confused by the contrast between their
money through sex work, facilitating the experience of sex and their expectations of
continuing transmission of HIV infection. romance, love, and caring. In Pratima
Poudel's experience, women are expected
Girl-trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and the position of women in Nepal 77

to be virginal and modest about sexual important instrument in maintaining that

matters, in tune with Hindu culture and control. Sex workers, and in particular
tradition, and to rely on their husbands for those young girls who have been coerced or
sexual knowledge and direction. This is trafficked, stand almost no chance of
confirmed by research from development negotiating the nature of the sexual
organisations (UNICEF 1996). The control encounter, and protecting themselves.
that women can exercise over the safety of Thus, the AIDS-prevention programme
their sexual practices is constrained by fails to discuss unequal power relations
these expectations. between women and men in intimate
In light of the above, it is surprising that relationships, and does not target men as
women have been the principal target of traffickers and clients of trafficked girls and
Nepal's AIDS-prevention programme, and other sex workers.
that the programme has concentrated on
public education campaigns, which focus Focusing on condoms
on condom-use to make sex safer. Public education about AIDS has a
tendency to present sexual encounters as a
Targeting women set of acts leading up to penetrative
Focusing exclusively on women implies intercourse, necessitating a condom for
that young girls and women are able to protection. This simplistic understanding
control the sexual encounter. This fails to of sex makes the process of prevention
take into account the realities of unequal seem easier: simply a matter of
power relations between women and men. timely intervention (Holland et al 1990,
The negotiation of safer sex in heterosexual Zierler and Krieger 1998).
encounters is shaped by the power that Young girls who have been trafficked
men can exercise over women at all levels are least likely to be able to negotiate such
in male-dominated societies, which safer sexual practices, because they have
interlinks with other power relations, been stripped of control over their own
including those determined by age, class, bodies. There is much evidence that
and ethnicity (Holland et al 1990). condom use is not welcomed among men
Young women and adolescent girls are who have multiple sexual partners,
even less likely to be able to negotiate with including the clients of sex workers, and
their partners than older women, since they sex workers are not in a position to insist
also face unequal power relations between (Lear 1995, Zierler and Krieger 1998).
younger and older people. Even for women in non-coercive
Inequality between women and men in relationships, stressing condom use is an
Nepal, which extends to inequality in inadequate measure to prevent HIV
negotiating sex, is reinforced by culturally infection. Women who can achieve safer
based ideas of male dominance and sex by using condoms with one partner
strength, and female submissiveness. cannot necessarily negotiate their
Traditional role expectations for women are continued use as the relationship
to be passive, obedient, and self-sacrificing progresses, nor ensure that they can be
in relationships with their partners. used with subsequent partners. In addition,
There are no rights for women, and they married women in many different contexts
have to maintain silence. Male control over find it impossible to require their partners
female sexuality is a crucial mechanism for to use a condom on the grounds that they
men to use to maintain their social and may have acquired HIV infection outside
economic dominance over women, and the marital relationship. Women
male violence against women is an attempting to introduce the subject of

condoms in the context of such and compatible laws and policies to

relationships risk appearing unfaithful, eradicate trafficking and prostitution from
over-dominant, or inappropriately both sides of national borders.
interested in sex (Poudel, personal Nepalese public-health policies focusing
observation in the trafficking-affected on preventive measures to control the
region of Sindhupalchowk, 1995). spread of AIDS must take account of the
reality of inequality between women and
Possible solutions men, which cross-cuts with age-based and
economic inequalities to render young girls
It is all too easy to engage in an academic living in poverty vulnerable to sexual
critique of this situation, as we have done exploitation. Public education to combat
here. It is much more challenging to the spread of HIV/AIDS should use an
develop concrete means whereby the safety analysis of gender relations to increase
and quality of life for Nepalese girls - public understanding of the ways in which
particularly those who are sold or it is contracted. In particular, there must be
otherwise coerced into sex work - is raised awareness of the way in which
substantially improved. This short article economic desperation and unequal power
has tried to address the issue of trafficking between women and men allow young
in women in relation to HIV/AIDS girls' bodies to become a commodity for
prevention strategies, rather than looking at sale as an alternative to other sources of
the two issues in isolation. Government income. Newspapers and other media must
and NGO policy-makers also need to make contribute by disseminating information on
these links. A holistic strategy is needed, to the causes of trafficking, and the nature,
end trafficking, control HIV infection, and prevention, and control of HIV infection,
care for survivors of trafficking and for rather than sensationalising information
people living with AIDS. Such a strategy about victims of sexual exploitation.
should be based on an understanding of Current public-health campaigns to
gender inequalities in social and economic combat HIV/AIDS tend to expect women
policies, the legal system, and education, to take the responsibility not only for their
and of discriminatory cultural practices. own reputations and their own bodies, but
Only once these are transformed can real also for policing men's sexual behaviour.
change take place in Nepal (Tuladhar 1996). Policy-makers must take responsibility for
To eliminate the beliefs and practices challenging male behaviour and changing
that either actively support or ignore it. If public-health campaigns are to be
trafficking within Nepalese society, a very successful in reducing the heterosexual
strong and multifaceted commitment is spread of HIV, then they must address the
needed. National, regional, and complex power relations in sexual
international legislation is needed, to encounters, which are shaped by gender,
combat trafficking itself. Since the age, poverty, and other social factors.
trafficking of young girls for sex work is a Health education should generate
cross-border problem, and existing awareness of the sexual roles and
legislation is not effective, it is important responsibilities of men as well as women,
for the Nepal government, in partnership stress the exploitative contexts in which
with other governments of countries of the women have sex with men, and give value
region, to review and improve existing to a wider range of safer sex practices,
legislation addressing trafficking for sexual beyond condom use in situations of
exploitation and prostitution. Co-operative penetrative sex. They need, rather, to
work is needed to develop a set of coherent increase public awareness of more diverse
Girl-trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and the position of women in Nepal 79

forms of sexual expression, and create an Lear, D (1995), 'Sexual communication

opportunity for young girls and boys to in the age of AIDS: the construction of
understand and speak about sexuality in risk and trust among young adults',
less limiting ways, before embarking on Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 41, No. 9,
sexual relationships of their own. pp.1311-23
Finally, communities, community-based Maiti Nepal (1997), 'Report on Cross-
organisations, NGOs, and government Border Workshop on Girl Trafficking',
must respond at a local level to develop Birtamod, Jhapa, Kathmandu,
adequate support services for rehabilitation unpublished.
of victims and survivors of sexual NESAC (Nepal South Asia Centre) (1998),
exploitation. Above all, the punishment Nepal Human Development Report 1998,
meted out to survivors - social Nepal South Asia Centre, Nepal
marginalisation and continued economic Ministry of Health/ New Era/DHS (1997),
deprivation - must cease. Family Health Survey 1996,
Macro International Inc, USA
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in clinical practice in Auckland: Violence: The Market in Women, Girls and
2133 Opaheke Road, Papakura, Auckland 1703, Sex in Nepal, UNICEF, Nepal
New Zealand. Email: Pradhan, G (1996), 'The road to Bombay:
forgotten women (Maya and Parbati,
Jenny Carryer is Professor of Nursing at the end of dream)', in ABC /Nepal 1996
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Massey University, Private Bag 11222, HIV/AIDS in Nepalese context',
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better policing measures needed',
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Vol. 12, No.3, pp.336-50
Gender, age, and exclusion:
a challenge to community organisations
in Lima, Peru
Fiona C Clark and Nina Laurie

The designation of 1999 as the United Nations International Year for the Older Person has
brought the issues of ageing and old age to the attention of policy-makers and governments.
However, despite a series of recent international reports1 which demonstrate growing
awareness among international development organisations of the need to focus on elderly
people worldwide, Peru's elderly population continues to be marginalised from formal support
and is, therefore, increasingly dependent on informal social organisations to meet its needs.

'I am very sad to be here, I can't get used to it. alleviation, specifically through improved
Everything is very strange. I feel lost ... nutrition. Through them, women have
Now I don't eat properly, I don't have an lobbied on issues such as provision of
appetite ... 1 don't know how to read or write, education and health services, and
and because I am old and ill I can't work ... campaigned against the guerrilla
I live imprisoned in the house, I know nothing insurgency of the 1980s and early 1990s
and no-one in the community ... If I do go out, (CENDOC MUJER 1991). However, we
I get lost, so my children won't let me out ... argue here that these organisations seem to
I am dependent on them.' have done little to include or empower
(Senora Mancario, elderly woman in her women in old age. While the elderly were
sixties from Tablada, Lima, Peru, 1996) initially targeted by both, service provision
for them has declined significantly over
time. This is occurring at a point when

his article focuses on two successful
grassroots women's organisations in economic adjustment and pension reform
Lima, Peru: the Comedores Populares have made elderly people increasingly
(soup kitchens) and the Vaso de Leche needy.
(glass of milk) Programme. The Comedores The article is based on information from
Populares are predominantly locally three low-income settlements on the
organised and informal communal outskirts of Lima: Tablada de Lurin,
kitchens, which establish individual San Juan de Dios, and Independencia.
relationships with a variety of NGOs and The work on which the article is based was
charities (Vargas 1991). In contrast, the carried out during two periods: the first,
Vaso de Leche is a State-organised national in 1996, lasted nine months and consisted
programme, relying heavily on of research into the inclusion of elderly
international food aid and political people in social movements. Two years
patronage. However, at the local level, both later, follow-up work consisted of
are run by women in their communities. examining the role of pension reform, and
The primary aim of both is poverty focused specifically on three clubs for
Gender, age, and exclusion in Lima, Peru 81

elderly people. During these periods of data old age, due to their comparatively limited
collection, we were assisted by having long- access to education and employment earlier
established relationships with a small, local in life. They therefore face a number of
Peruvian NGO which runs a range of barriers to securing assets for their old age.3
community projects. Both the authors have
long had an interest in women and social Gender and ageing in
movements in Peru. Fiona Clark was a structural adjustment
volunteer in this project in 1996, and
Nina Laurie has collaborated with the In 1990, Peru became one of the few
organisation for eight years. countries to introduce a programme of
economic structural adjustment
The ageing population in independent of the World Bank and the
Peru International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Critics of economic structural adjustment
Endemic poverty still persists in Peru. It is policies have argued that these have a
particularly acute for older people, and 'gender bias', and that because of this it is
especially indigenous women, who make women who suffer more in times of
up the largest proportion of the illiterate austerity and economic rationalisation
population in Peru. Of Peru's population (Elson 1991). However, such analyses have
of 25 million, just over one million seldom been extended to include women
(4.5 per cent) are aged over 65 (WDI 1998). beyond child-bearing age. However, Peru's
Peru's elderly population has grown by recent State and pension reforms and
76 per cent since 1980, compared with an cutbacks in public-sector expenditures have
increase of 43 per cent for the population as affected spending on health and pension
a whole (ibid). This rise in the elderly funds severely (Barrientos 1996), with
population is occurring without an particular consequences for women. In the
accompanying rise in affluence, thus past decade, reform to the pension system
creating an ever-larger, and poorer, sector has aimed to make pensions economically
of the population. The existing State social- sustainable. The main aim has been to
security systems do not have the resources remove the burden that they place on the
to satisfy the growing elderly population. State (James 1998, World Bank 1994), thus
Furthermore, the limited coverage of these not "extending their reach to poorer, less
formal systems leaves many still beyond 'secure' investors.
the reach of social support programmes. While preliminary evidence suggests
Elderly populations are 'feminised', that this reform has been successful in
in the sense that women's greater longevity achieving these particular aims (James
means that they are a numerically 1998), it has failed to address prevailing
dominant group among the very old biases against women, informal-sector
(James 1998). In the elderly subset of the workers, and rural dwellers that make it
population 2 of Peru, men represent difficult for these groups to secure
45 per cent and women the other pensions. In 1994, 90.6 per cent of people
55 per cent (WDI 1998), a sex ratio of aged 60 or over in Peru who received a
100 men to 122 women, compared with a State pension were men (INEI1995).
sex ratio for the whole population of
100 men per 98 women. The age cohort over 'There are no services for the elderly here.
80 shows an even greater imbalance. The State doesn't provide social security for
Elderly women are often more vulnerable them. I worked in the haciendas (large farms)
than elderly men to economic instability in from the age of nine. Later I became a chauffeur

with a company, but they didn't pay enough, so Exclusion within New
1 set up on my own ... then I had my car stolen, Social Movements: two case
so I couldn't work any more. At the end of it all studies
I had 43 credits4 in my pension fund, and they
(the social security) took away 30! They onlyDuring the 1980s, the economic crisis
pay me for 13, a pittance1. They don't value my
suffered by much of Latin America
years of service. They've robbed me of my provided the platform for the emergence of
pension. 1 went to complain ... "A new system",
what came to be termed 'New Social
they said. They were only counting the last Movements' (Escobar and Alvarez 1992).
13 years! Then they took away my driving Increasingly desperate living conditions
licence to make sure I didn't work again. and severe poverty fuelled the growth of
The authorities really abuse people, there are
numerous small-scale, localised initiatives
many that should be receiving pensions and in the fight for daily survival. Lima has a
aren't getting a penny.' (Senor Perez, in hislong history of vibrant social movements,
seventies, 1996) through which women and men have
struggled to improve housing and address
Women, in particular, have difficulty in social needs in a context of urbanisation
making pension contributions for the and increasing poverty (Moser and Peake
minimum period of 20 years, due to 1987, Peattie 1990). These movements date
frequent gaps in formal employment, and back to the land invasions of the 1960s and
low and unreliable income. A large 1970s, which created the pueblos jovenes
proportion of women's paid and unpaid (new towns) that emerged on the edge of
work is concentrated in informal-sector the city (Lloyd 1980), and have since been
activities (Tanski 1994). In addition, it is the focus of much study. More recently, the
typically interrupted by periods of child- pueblos jovenes have become famous as
birth and child-rearing. Furthermore, places where 'popular feminisms' have
women are more likely than men to get emerged, through the multitude of
non-monetary payment for their work women's grassroots organisations that were
(Grown and Sebstad 1987). All these factors established during the political and
make contributing to a pension very economic crises of the 1980s and early 1990s
difficult. (Laurie et al 1997).
As a result, many Peruvian women Peruvian women's activities at
rely on their husbands' pensions, or on grassroots level have been seen as
alternative methods of survival. Of those emblematic of the success of the New Social
reliant on their spouses' pensions, Movements, and have received much
99.6 per cent were women (INEI 1995). attention from researchers. The two
On her husband's death, a widow receives organisations on which we focus here - the
a severely reduced survivor's pension of Comedores Populares and the Vaso de Leche
between 35 and 42 per cent of the pension Programme - were set up to meet basic
for male employees. As Gorman (1995) needs. They have worked to alleviate
suggests, 'for many women in developing poverty for two decades, and have been
countries the descent into total dependency integral to community survival during this
begins with the death of the husband' time. They are particularly noteworthy for
(Gorman 1995,121). their wide geographical and social
coverage. The first Comedores began to
appear in Lima at the start of the 1980s,
when mothers started to pool food
and money as part of household
Gender, age, and exclusion in Lima, Peru 83

and community survival strategies. the local municipality to allow six group
The Vaso de Leche scheme also started in this members to eat free in the municipal
period, initially aiming to provide a ration Comedores. However, this Comedor
of milk a day to children under six, was located in central Independencia -
pregnant women, and elderly people a 10-minute bus-ride or half-hour walk
(El Sol 1996). away - and the six members were not able
The following section examines how to take up the offer, because they could not
elderly people, and particularly women, are manage the long walk up and down a steep
seen, and their interests and needs hill, nor afford the daily return bus fare.
understood, by the Comedores Populares and The national Vaso de Leche programme
the Vaso de Leche. It identifies the limited initially included the elderly among its
extent to which elderly women are target groups. However, recent cuts in milk
included as beneficiaries and social actors. rations, related to the funding crisis caused
by the retraction of most foreign aid during
The elderly: an unserved the civil war, and subsequent government
target group cuts in welfare expenditure, had the
inevitable outcome that the little milk that
7 used to receive milk from the Vaso de Leche. remained was channelled to children and
Now they don't include me any more. I don't pregnant mothers. The ration for the
get anything, not milk nor food at the elderly was the first to be reduced. As a
Comedores. If my children don't give me any, consequence, in Tablada, 31 per cent of
I have nothing ... I am totally dependent on older people interviewed reported having
them.' (Senora Rosario, in her sixties, 1996) been withdrawn from the programme.
Some centres are even explicit in their
Comedores seem to have excluded elderly exclusion of elderly people from the
community members in a number of programme:
contexts. Interviews with the dirigentes
(leaders) of three elderly people's clubs in 'Even the Vaso de Leche hasn't given me any
Tablada, Independencia, and San Juan de help. I went and said to them: "Please, I too
Dios revealed that none of them had need milk", but they said: "No, not for old
successfully managed to obtain support women. This is for babies, for the little ones."...
from the local Comedores for their members, They clearly told me that the Vaso de Leche was
despite having asked for it repeatedly. only for children. I even stood in the doorway
In 1996, Tablada had 62 Comedores Populareswaiting for left-overs, and they still didn't give
(Gamarra 1996), and, while 81 per cent of me any.' (Senora Huaman, in her sixties,
the 35 elderly people interviewed from this 1998)
area mentioned having the facility of a
soup kitchen near them, only 23 per cent of Even those who previously received help
this group said they used it regularly. from centres when these first started
Nineteen per cent said they used it reported that they now received very little:
occasionally, while the rest did not use it at
all. In Independencia, none of the 28 'When I arrived from the mountains (1991)
members of the old people's club had they gave me a whole bag full of milk - a whole
access to a Comedor, and in San Juan de bag. Now they give so little.' (Senora Vega,
Dios, only two out of 40 members were in her fifties, 1996)
given rations as 'special cases'.5 The club in
San Juan de Dios did manage to arrange for

Explaining the exclusion of Conventional perceptions of the elderly as

elderly people passive dependants makes their exclusion
from the benefits of the Comedores Populares
One of the reasons for neglect of elderly and Vaso de Leche more likely, since both
women and men is that both the Comedores organisations use a rhetoric of temporary
Populares and the Vaso de Leche programme,assistance and self-help, rather than
like most poverty-alleviation programmes, welfare. Comedores have a clear remit to
register households rather than individuals. provide temporary support to families for
Eligibility of a household for inclusion one or two months, to help them to 'get
on either of the programmes is based on the back on their feet' until they find work, or
number of children per household, in an other means to support themselves.
attempt to combat child malnutrition. Although the Vaso de Leche initially
This automatically excludes any intended to target the elderly as well as
households without children and children, it actually aims in the main to
potentially neglects and renders invisible reduce infant malnutrition, and help the
elderly people living in poverty. growth of children in their first years of life.
Poverty analyses that focus on the While the temporary nature of such
household do the elderly no favours, since support remains mainly rhetorical
they 'misrepresent intra-household (during the 1980s and early 1990s these
behaviour, obscure intra-household organisations provided long-term welfare -
stratification by gender and generation, and see Laurie 1995), extending assistance to the
stifle the voices of the unempowered' elderly is resisted, because there can be
(Wolfe 1990, 44). They also hide the little doubt that for many this support is
contributions of older people to the care likely to be needed until they die.
and maintenance of the household, and Not only have the organisations
therefore overlook their right as active excluded the elderly as a vulnerable group,
household members to benefit from the but they have also failed to recognise the
activities of social movements that aim to crucial support that many elderly women
support this work. Where grandparents are give them, both directly and indirectly.
present in the family, they tend to be Literature and popular opinion has
perceived as non-active household celebrated the role of young women
members who live in 'a situation of as mothers in the success of
complete passivity' (INEI 1995, 13) as Comedores Populares and the Vaso de Leche
victims of their age. Even when elderly (see, for example, CENDOC MUJER 1991),
women (and men) do contribute actively to but these women do not necessarily have
the income of the household, this type of the time to participate fully in the running
work is often invisible and not valued, even of the organisations. Elderly women
by the elderly themselves. Elia Luna, may take over the household tasks while
in charge of establishing one programme in their daughters contribute time to the
Lima attending to elderly people, states: Comedores Populares or Vaso de Leche
programmes, or participate themselves.
'Frequently an elderly woman, when asked if One young single mother described how
she "works" will reply "no", even though she her mother fetches and distributes milk for
spends most of her day selling vegetables or the Vaso de Leche programme:
fruit in the market, or selling home-prepared
food in the street.... This is a problem in society
'In comite number six, there is nothing but
- that this kind of informal work is not given arguments: "I don't have time to go, you should
the value it deserves and is not seen as "work".'
go" ... The only one who goes (to pick up the
(Elia Luna, Lima, 1998) milk) is my mother...[with] the neighbour,
Gender, age, and exclusion in Lima, Peru 85

while the other women are there sitting idle have emerged in Lima in recent years.
with their husbands and children, and don't The impetus to set them up often comes
help with even one glass of milk. All her life my from the recognition that elderly people
mother has gone and fetched the milk, ever since have no alternative to self-help, due to their
the centre opened, while other (younger) exclusion from long-standing social
Seiioras sit and complain that "no, I can't go movements: in many cases, the very social
because I have to look after my children, I can't movements that, as younger people, they
go because I've too much to do"' ... And my helped to organise. While feminist
mother? I suppose she doesn't have anything literature has heralded the success of
better to do? She, as it happens, has to look after organisations such as the Comedores
her grandchildren, because her daughters are Populares and the Vaso de Leche in providing
out working.' (Sefiora Gomez, younger strategic opportunities for low-income
single mother, Tablada, Lima, Peru 1996) women (Barrig 1989, Gaiter and Nunez
1989), the role-loss and isolation
Sefiora Gomez's words challenge an experienced by elderly women who were
important assumption about the once their founders have not been
Vaso de Leche and other women's acknowledged.
organisations like it. This is that they
'empower' women and relieve them of 7 have always been in the Vaso de Leche and
their drudgery: in fact, they may place an the Comedores, but once I got older and
extra burden on the very women whom started not feeling so well, I had to withdraw
they are meant to target and who already from my activities. I felt very poorly and so I
face a heavy workload. Under such had to stop. So now I am sat here, stuck in my
circumstances, the running and, continued house, I am very lonely. I had got used to
'success' of these programmes very often always mixing with local people and having
relies on the work of the very household contact with local institutions. Now I've been
members (the elderly) who are excluded left feeling very alone, uncomfortable. It really
from their direct benefits. hit me hard, and I was very depressed. I saw
To summarise, no long-term support is myself getting worse because I wasn't
available from these organisations to participating any more. So that's when I
promote the welfare of elderly people. decided to form my own group of Senoras like
Second, the contribution that elderly me, a group for elderly people. So since 1993,
members of households make to the work my husband and I have been working on this -
of the organisations is invisible and working - but still we receive no help, and yet
undervalued. Therefore, even in the most every day I see more elderly people [who are]...
successful New Social Movements in Lima, lonely. (Senora Castro, a woman in her
rather than being seen as social actors and seventies, Independencia, Lima, Peru 1998)
citizens in their own right, elderly people
are often perceived as non-priority and The groups have met with varied success in
passive members of society in need of terms of providing for the nutritional needs
'charity'. of their members. For example, while one
club failed to establish workable links with
'Self-help': an alternative to a local Comedor, it has been more successful
social movements? with the Vaso de Leche, which now gives the
group 12 bags of milk and seven bags of
A number of Clubes de Tercer Edad oats each week. It is important, however,
(elderly people's clubs), focusing not to over-estimate the extent of this help,
exclusively on the needs of the elderly, as each individual receives a ration of two

bags of milk and one of oats - a weekly elderly women seem to be an invisible
ration for the usual recipient of the group in feminist debates in Peru.
Vaso de Leche - only every six to seven For example, a leading Limenan feminist
weeks. organisation said 'we deal with women, not
with elderly people', when they were
A gender analysis of contacted concerning the research for this
exclusion project. Why is it that contemporary
debates on gender and development in
Mainstream development policy has Peru have not addressed the issue of
concentratedtoo much on 'developing' elderly women? One of the reasons
people in the productive part of their suggested by an activist on issues of old
life cycle, and this has tended to age in Tablada is the fact that few older
marginalise elderly people from women themselves have reflected upon
development programmes and agendas. their gendered experience of poverty:
More specifically, feminist analyses of
development have tended to focus almost 'The majority of women have not thought about
entirely on young, often single, their gender roles or how this affects their life.
metropolitan women and their They will tell you how much they suffered and
involvement in employment and social how hard they have had to work, but they will
movements, at the expense of including say "I suffered because I am poor", rather than
older, 'provincial' women (Laurie 1999). "I suffered because I am poor and a woman".'
Such analyses have failed to acknowledge (Mili Castro, leader of club for elderly
the cumulative effect of social, economic, people, 1998)
and political biases against women
throughout their life course, or the impact It would appear that, despite more than
this has on their well-being in old age. three decades of active middle-class and
The desire of the elderly to do 'popular' feminisms, there is a generation
something to meet their own needs could of women, now of advancing years, who
be seen in the same positive light as have not yet had the opportunity to reflect
feminists and gender and development on their experience of poverty and
workers saw the early self-help housing discrimination, or to understand it as
movements of the 1970s, or the anything more than class-based.
opportunities afforded to young women
leaders who started the soup kitchens in Conclusion
the 1980s. On the other hand, we could also
see it as proof of the failure of the New This article has pointed out that the ageing
Social Movements to adapt to the changing of Latin American populations is an issue
needs of the communities in which they that has to be taken seriously very soon.
work. These movements, set up to meet Social security systems are currently faced
basic needs, seem to have been unable to with the challenge of a growing elderly
incorporate difference between members, population, which is predominantly
or to create fluid institutional structures female. In Peru, the privatisation of the
and targets capable of meeting the needs of pension system has highlighted the
ageing members. inherent gender, urban, and formal-
Despite the fact that elderly women are economy biases that continue to exclude
'likely to suffer problems accruing not only many people, and especially women, from
from present abandonment, but also from its benefits. The Peruvian State should not
earlier disadvantage' (Tout 1989, 289), rely on the family, or social movements, to
Gender, age, and exclusion in Lima, Peru 87

compensate for inadequate government Development (DfID 1999), HelpAge

social security provision. The State, in International (HAI 1995), INSTRAW
partnership with international agencies, (1999), the United Nations Population
NGOs, and community leaders, must Fund (UNFPA 1998), and the World
recognise and value the existing and Bank (1994).
potential work of elderly members of the 2 Those over the age of 65.
community, to enable the elderly to play a 3 For a wider discussion of gender-based
part in their own welfare provision. economic exclusion, see Clark (1999).
Researchers and policy-makers need to For a discussion of women over the life
look more closely at the position of elderly course, see Pratt and Hanson (1995).
women and men within the poverty 4 One credit is equal to one year's service.
debates, and gender and development 5 One elderly woman receives a daily
debates, if the complexities of exclusion in meal for her and her husband because
later life are to be understood. This shift in her husband is paralysed. The other
policy focus is necessary if older people, elderly woman receives food for herself
and especially women, are to be given a and her children because she works
voice that allows them to discuss the (unremunerated) in the Comedores every
ageing process and bring ageism into the day from eight a.m. until three p.m.
open, so that it can be countered. A gender
analysis of opportunities through the life References
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No. 2
Compiled by Erin Murphy Graham

Older Women in Development (1995),

I'tiblic.itions HelpAge International, 3rd Floor, 67-74
Saffron Hill, London EC1N 8QX, UK.
This booklet includes brief case studies
Gender and ageing from Ghana, Peru, India, Chile, Tanzania,
The Ageing and Development Report: Poverty, Grenada, Costa Rica, and Rwanda. It relates
Independence, and the World's Older People issues of ageing to poverty, work, caring
(1999), HelpAge International, Earthscan and health services, emergencies, and
Publications, 120 Pentonville Road, London education.
Nl 9JN, UK.
The first extensive survey of older people in A World of Widows (1996), Margaret Owen,
the developing world, including economic Zed Books, 7 Cynthia Street, London Nl
issues, health systems, work, and family 9FJ, UK.
relationships. The first section presents an Widowhood, on an international level, is
introduction to ageing and development. explored in this volume. Issues addressed
The second presents regional information include the process of becoming a widow,
on the State of the World's Older People. differing laws regarding inheritance,
The third part presents data on Ageing and widows who remarry, and sexuality and
Development, and the fourth has health. The book concludes with a
references, with lists of member summary of widowhood as a human-rights
organisations of HelpAge International. issue, and an overview of what widows are
doing to organise for change.
Women, Ageing and Health: Achieving Health
across the Life Span (1996), R. Bonita, Gender Issues in Elder Abuse (1996),
World Health Organisation, Distribution Lynda Aitken and Gabriele Griffen,
and Sales, CH- 1211, Geneva 27, Sage Publications, 6 Bonhill Street, London
Switzerland. E-mail:; EC2A 4PU.
fax (41) 22 791 4857. This book analyses the ways in which
Global in its approach, the report identifies gender is central to the occurrence,
certain health needs shared by all ageing detection, and prevention of abuse of the
women, discusses their determinants, and elderly.
then shows how these needs can be met
through cost-effective strategies.

AGEWAYS: Practical Agecare for Programming for Adolescent Health and

Development, HelpAge International, Development: Report of a WHO/UNFPA/
67-74 Saffron Hill, London EC1N 8QX, UK. UNICEF Study Group on Programming for
AGEWAYS is a quarterly journal dedicated Adolescent Health (1999), World Health
to the issues of ageing and age-care in Organisation, Technical Report Series,
developing countries. Also published in No. 886.
Spanish as HORIZONTES: Ayuda a la The report aims to establish a framework of
Ancianidad para el Desarrollo. strategies and principles that can support
programmes for adolescent health at
Ageing and Development, country level, particularly in the developing
HelpAge International. world. The report draws on practical
This journal, published three times a year, experiences and recent research findings to
aims to raise awareness of the contribution, reach conclusions on which interventions
needs, and rights of older people, and to work best.
promote the development of laws and
policies supporting older people. Adolescent Health: Reassessing the Passage to
Adulthood (1995), Judith Senderowitz,
The girl-child World Bank Discussion Papers No. 272.
1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20043,
The State of the World's Children 2000 (2000),USA.
UNICEF, United Nations Publications, This paper discusses the slow development
E-mail: of programmes to meet adolescents' health
fax (44) 020 7405 2332 needs in developing countries, and reviews
Since 1979, this annual series has drawn the current data on adolescent health, with
international attention to the challenges an emphasis on reproductive and sexual
facing children and has pressed for activity. It argues that gender
sustained action to protect and promote discrimination in food allocation, health-
their well-being. The most recent report care and education compromises young
issues an urgent call to leadership on behalf women's current and future well-being.
of children and discusses four of the most It also highlights the greater health risks
daunting obstacles to development: faced by adolescent females because of
poverty, violence, disease, and factors related to reproduction, including
discrimination. early pregnancy and childbearing.

Traditional and Cultural Practices Harmful

to the Girl-Child (1997), African Centre
Trafficking and exploitation
for Women Occasional Paper No. 1,
of children
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), The Prostitution of Women and Girls (1998),
Development Information Services R Barri Flowers, McFarland & Company
Division, UNECAP, PO Box 3001, Inc. Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. North Carolina 28640, USA.
This booklet discusses practices that are This book explores the complex issues
harmful to girls yet are perpetuated or surrounding the prostitution of women and
ignored, due to ignorance or cultural girls internationally. The third part
tradition. Examples are drawn from examinesthe extent of teenage prostitution,
countries in Africa to illustrate these the characteristics of girl prostitutes,
problems. The last section contains policy runaway girls, and the dimensions and
recommendations. dangers of child sexual abuse.
Resources 91

Kids for Hire: A Child's Right to Protection Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global
from Commercial Sexual Exploitation (1996), Economy (1999), Kevin Bales, University of
Save the Children, Mary Datchelor House, California Press, 1600 Hershey Hall,
17 Grove Lane, London SE5 8RD, UK. 610 Young Drive, University of California,
Kids for Hire looks into various ways in Los Angeles, CA 90095-1373, USA.
which the problem of sexually exploited Drawing on case studies from Thailand,
children can be addressed by development Mauritania, Brazil, Pakistan, and India, this
organisations, focusing its attention on six volume explores modern-day slavery and
areas: good information and research, what can be done to end it. The last section
prevention, protection, rehabilitation, focuses on what can be done to stop
co-ordination among NGOs, and the slavery, and offers five specific actions that
participation of the children themselves in individuals can take.
addressing the issue. Brief case studies are
included on children from Vietnam, Street Children: Struggling Against the Odds
Cambodia, Philippines, Brazil, Honduras, (1992), World Association of Girl Guides
and the UK. and Girl Scouts, 12c Lyndhurst Road,
London NW3 5PQ, UK.
The Human Rights Watch Global Report This booklet contains a brief introduction to
on Women's Human Rights (1995), the problems of street children, stressing
Human Rights Watch, 33 Islington that street children are not just found in
High Street, Nl 9LH, London, UK. developing countries, but in European
A compilation of investigations by Human cities. Street girls are among the most
Right Watch from 1990 to 1995 is presented vulnerable and exploited of all street
in this volume. Several case studies are children. Profiles of street girls from
included on the forced prostitution, coerced Manila, Brazil, and London are included, as
marriage, and trafficking of women and well as information about projects to help
girls in South and South-East Asia. street girls in the UK, Philippines, USA,
General recommendations to governments, Brazil, Peru, and Rwanda.
the United Nations, and donor countries are
included. Street and Working Children: A Guide to
Planning (1994), Save the Children.
Wish You Weren't Here: The Sexual This manual is relevant for both researchers
Exploitation of Children and the Connectionand those working directly with street
with Tourism and International Travel (1993),children. It argues that over the past decade
Kevin Ireland, Save the Children, street children have received increased
Mary Datchelor House, 17 Grove Lane, attention because of tourism, international
London SE5 8RD, UK. press coverage, and films or documentaries,
This report attempts to explore the links and that many inter-national development
between international tourism and the agencies have based successful fundraising
sexual abuse and exploitation of children by campaigns on images of street children.
tourists and international travellers. Compared with street children, working
The last section of the report presents children do not receive the same response,
intervention strategies, including despite the fact that millions of them work
international co-operation, and argues that in agriculture, workshops, and factories,
action must be taken within countries of and as domestic servants. The manual
tourist origin. includes chapters on carrying out first-hand
research, project options, common
problems, and suggested solutions.

Child Labour - An Information Kit for HIV/AIDS, age, and gender

Teachers, Educators and their Organisations
(1998), International Labour Organisation, The Hidden Cost of AIDS: The Challenge of
1211 GENEVA 22 Switzerland. HIV to Development (1992), The Panos
Fax: +41 22 799 8578; email:; Institute, 9 White Lion Street, London
Internet: Nl 9PD, UK.
The kit aims to assist teachers, educators, This book provides a general overview of
and their organisations in carrying out the economic, demographic, and social
actions and campaigns against child labour. implications of HIV/AIDS throughout the
The kit contains information, and examples developing world, with a special focus on
of practical tools for use in the classroom sub-Saharan Africa. Chapter Four focuses
and the community. The first book, gives on the social costs of HIV/AIDS in the
facts and figures on child labour and community. This chapter also examines the
underlines the importance of education in ways in which women are disprop-
the elimination of child labour. The second ortionately affected by the HIV/AIDS
book is a collection of successful initiatives epidemic.
from 13 countries, showing how various
groups around the world have worked to The Looming Epidemic: The Impact of HIV and
solve child-labour problems through AIDS in India (1998), Peter Goodwin (ed)
educational programmes. Hurst & Company, 38 King Street, London
Child Soldiers: The Role of Children in A collection of reports of research findings,
Armed Conflict (1997), Ilene Cohn and analytical frameworks, and suggestions for
Guy S Goodwin-Gill, Oxford University future research are included in this volume
Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 on HIV/AIDS in India. The last chapter
6DP, UK. focuses on 'Gender Differentials and the
This book assesses the status of children Special Vulnerability of Women', which,
soldiers in international law. It discusses while discussed within the Indian context,
why children participate in armed conflict, is also relevant in other settings. Additional
and the conditions and consequences of attention is given to the importance of the
their participation. It concludes with a needs of children and AIDS orphans.
series of recommendations to prevent
recruitment and calls for the creation of a Children Orphaned by AIDS: Frontline
more coherent policy of treatment for Responses from Eastern and Southern Africa
children who have participated in violent (1999), UNICEF Publications, 55 Lincoln's
conflict. Inn Fields, WC2A 3NB London, UK.
This report discusses the impact of AIDS,
Children: the Invisible Soldiers (1996), beyond the deaths of millions of people,
focusing on the children who lose one or
Radda Barnen, Swedish Save the Children,
both parents to the AIDS virus. It argues
107 88 Stockholm, Sweden.
that by the end of 2000 a cumulative total of
Based on case studies from 26 countries,
1.3 million children will have lost their
this report, commissioned by the UN Study
parents. It examines how the AIDS
on the Impact of Armed Conflict on
epidemic affects children, and offers policy
Children, documents how and why recommendations for individual countries
children become soldiers. Special attention to help affected children.
is given to gender issues.
Resources 93

Researching life stories undertaken by students with their own

family members. The project was instigated
Researching Life Stories and Family Histories by the Commonwealth Secretariat prior to
(2000), Robert L. Miller, Sage Publications, the UN Women's Conference in Beijing,
6 Bonhill Street, London EC2A 4PU, UK. 1995. It looked at shifts in the values,
This book covers the main methods and attitudes, relationships and gender roles of
issues in collecting and analysing life three generations of women and men, in
histories. It also includes exercises to help nine countries in South and North.
master these methodologies. The contextual differences are highlighted,
together with the striking similarities in
Listening for A Change: Oral Testimony and what it means to be male and female in our
Development (1993), Hugo Slim and "globalising' world.
Paul Thompson, Panos Publications.
This book was published as part of the
Panos Oral Testimony Programme. Organisations
People want to speak for themselves, and UNICEF, UNICEF House, 3 United Nations
not to be heard through the distorting Plaza, New York, New York 10017, USA.
medium of outside 'experts'. Using case Http:/ /
studies from around the world, it illustrates Email
the different ways in which aid agencies - Founded in 1946, UNICEF advocates and
and communities themselves - can use oral works for the protection of children's rights,
history. to help the young to meet their basic needs
and to expand their opportunities to reach
Oral History: A Handbook (1998), their full potential. UNICEF is guided by
Ken Wowarth. Sutton Publishing, the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Phoenix Mill, Gloucestershire G15 2BU, UK. and strives to establish children's rights as
This book offers a broad discussion of oral enduring ethical principles and
history, from the philosophical to the international standards of behaviour
practical. It includes chapters on interview towards children.
planning and recording, storage of media,
and the use of video. It ends with a section Save the Children (International Save the
on 'using oral history', and also includes Children Alliance), 275-281 King Street,
appendices with sample questions and London W6 9LZ, UK.
guidance on ethical issues. Tel: +44 20 8748 2554; fax: +44 20 8237 8000
Http: / / / newstc /
At the Desert's Edge: Oral Histories from Email:
the Sahel (1991). Nigel Cross and Since 1919, Save the Children has been
Rhiannon Barker (eds.), Panos Publications. working to promote the rights and improve
This collection of oral histories is an living conditions of children around the
example of the power of this method of world. Working in more than 100 countries
finding out about people. It offers the life- across the globe and comprising 26
stories of more than 500 men and women in organisations, Save the Children also works
eight Sahelian countries. with mothers, recognising that 'when
mothers thrive, children thrive', and has
Three Generations, Two Genders, One World recently published a report on The State of
(1998), Sylvia Chant and Cathy Mcllwaine the World's Mothers.
(editors), Zed Books.
This fascinating book is the outcome of a
multi-country oral history research project

PLAN International, 5-6 Underhill Street, HelpAge International (Help the Aged),
London NW1 7HS, UK. 67-74 Saffron Hill, London EC1N 8QX, UK.
Tel: 020 7485 6612; fax: 020 7485 2107 Tel: +44 171 404 7201; fax: +44 171 404 7203
Http: / / / uk / http: / /;
home.html e-mail:
PLAN International is a child-focused HelpAge International is a development
development organisation that, for more agency that works through a network of
than 60 years, has helped millions of development, research, and community-
children, and their families, throughout the based and social-service organisations that
world. PLAN International now works in share the goal of improving the lives of
14 donor countries (including the UK) and disadvantaged older people. Founded in
in over 40 programme countries, with more 1983 as an independent charity by HelpAge
than one million sponsored children world- India, Help the Aged Canada, Pro Vida
wide Colombia, HelpAge Kenya, and Help the
Aged UK, it has grown to include the
Street Kids International, 398 Adelaide St. W, present membership of 62 organisations
Suite 1000, 10th floor, Toronto, Canada world-wide.
M5V 1S7.
Tel: 416 504 8994; fax: 416 504 8977. The International Institute on Ageing,
Http:/ / United Nations-Malta, 117 St Paul Street,
E-mail Valletta VLT 07 Malta.
Street Kids International works to help Tel: 2430044/5/6; fax: 230248
those who work with street kids at the local http:/ /;
level: front-line workers who can respect email:
their individuality, understand their The main objectives of the Institute on
dilemmas, and create opportunities for Ageing are to fulfil the training needs of
them to build better lives. Street Kids developing countries and to facilitate the
International attempts to help street implementation of the Vienna International
children by creating and sharing innovative Plan of Action on Ageing. The Institute
approaches to both urgent needs and provides multi-disciplinary education and
underlying causes. training in specific areas related to ageing,
and also acts as a catalyst as regards the
International Programme on the Elimination of exchange of information on issues
Child Labour (IPEC), International Labour concerned with ageing.
Tel: +41.22.799.8181; fax: +41.22.799.8771. UNAIDS, 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211
Http: / / public/ english/ Geneva 27, Switzerland.
standards / ipec / index.htm, Tel: (+4122) 791 3666; fax: (+4122) 791 4187
E-Mail: http: / /
The aim of IPEC is to work towards the email:
progressive elimination of child labour by The mission of UNAIDS is to lead,
strengthening national capacities to address strengthen, and support an expanded
child-labour problems, and by creating a response to the AIDS epidemic that will
world-wide movement to combat it. prevent the spread of HIV, provide care
The priority target groups are bonded child and support for those infected and affected
labourers, children in hazardous working by the disease, reduce the vulnerability of
conditions and occupations, very young individuals and communities to HIV/
working children and working girls. AIDS, and alleviate the socio-economic and
human impact of the epidemic.
Resources 95

Websites International Labour Organisation:

Child Labour
World Health Organisation Ageing and Health http: / / / public / english /
Programme comp/child/
http: / / / index.html This website contains information on the
In April 1995, WHO launched a new ILO policy on child labour, international
programme on Ageing and Health. law, and links to publications on child
This website highlights the programmes in labour. Its 'news room' contains
several focus areas, including life course, information kits, video and audio clips,
health promotion, culture, and gender. posters and photographs, and relevant
The purpose of the programme is to articles from the ILO publication,
promote health and well-being throughout World of Work.
the life span, thus ensuring the highest
possible level of quality of life for as long as UNICEF
possible, for the largest possible number of
older people. UNICEF's homepage has useful links to
publications, the Convention on the Rights
Global Movement for Active Ageing of the Child, and UNICEF programmes and
http: / / / global_ activities. Voices of Youth, a discussion-
movement/index.html based site hosted by UNICEF where young
The Global Movement for Active Ageing, people are encouraged to express their
which was conceived by the World Health opinions on current issues, is one of these
Organisation, acts as a network for all those programmes (http:/ /
who are interested in moving policies and voy/). In addition, there is a list of links to
practice towards 'Active Ageing', or the other organisations that work to prevent
capacity of people, as they grow older, to child labour, and papers on child labour:
lead productive and healthy lives in their Oneworld's Big Issues: Child Labour
families, societies and economies. The key http: / / / guides /
messages of the movement are the chld_labour / index.html
celebration of ageing, the recognition that
older persons can continue to contribute to Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)
a society for all, and the promotion of http:/ /
intergenerational solidarity. This site also CRIN is a global network of organisations
contains models and ideas for programmes exchanging information about children's
and projects that promote active ageing. rights to promote the UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child and to improve
Pan-American Health Organisation Unit on policy and practice of organisations around
Ageing and Health the world. This website is a valuable
http:/ / resource on the implementation and
hee-index.htm monitoring of the Convention. It also
The unit on Ageing and Health in the includes bibliographic references,
Family Health and Population Programme databases, a calendar of events, and links to
of the Division of Health Promotion and other child-focused sites.
Protection aims to promote public and
health policies with a focus on active The Girl Child Working Group: WomenWatch
ageing, promote the health and well-being
Beijing + 5 Global Forum
of older persons, and encourage initiatives
http: / / / womenwatch/ for /
to create health promotion and disease-
prevention interventions for older persons.

This site has detailed information on the news leads, statements by UNICEF's
Platform for Action adopted at the Beijing Executive Director, and B-roll footage.
Conference in 1995, which defined nine The State of the World's Children 1997
strategic objectives for the girl-child. video calls for an immediate end to
The Girl Child Working Group homepage hazardous and exploitative child labour.
discusses how these strategic objectives Featured are testimonials from working
have been met and what lessons have been children - bonded child labourers in India's
learned in efforts to achieve these goals. bidi (cigarette) industry, street beggars in
Senegal and under-age garment workers in
Children and Aids International Non- Bangladesh - that illustrate the appalling
Government Organisation Network (CAINN)conditions endured by millions of children
http: / / / education / each day.
The CAINN network was established in 'Rights of Passage (1994)
1996 by NGOs and community-based This film depicts the hardship and
organisations to promote the voices, rights, challenges faced by four girls reaching
and needs of children and young people adolescence in Burkina Faso, India,
infected by, affected by, and vulnerable to Jamaica, and Nicaragua. It presents a
HIV /AIDS. Its key objective is to promote sensitive and personal portrayal of their
the implementation of the UN Convention lives and the issues of drug abuse, teenage
on Rights of the Child and other relevant pregnancy, education discrimination, and
international declarations and agreements. female genital mutilation - problems faced
by many girls around the world.
Soldier Boy (1997), UNICEF and Danish TV
This film depicts the tragic consequences of
Karate Kids (1989), Street Kids International violence for the lives of children in Liberia,
See contact information above West Africa, where thousands of children
This animated video story serves as a aged seven or over are fighting as soldiers
discussion tool, aimed at 8-14 year olds, in a civil war that began in 1989.
about HIV/AIDS prevention and sexual One quarter of the combatants are children.
health issues. It attempts to encourage
young people to ask questions about street Dream Girls (1996)
life and sexually transmitted diseases. This documentary follows four girls living
It is available in 23 languages and is on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, three
currently used by youth workers in more of whom make their living through
than 100 countries. prostitution.

The following videos are available from In Uganda, Caring for Children Orphaned
UNICEF (see contact information above). by Aids
More information is available at Video clip in Real format available at http: / / / pon99 / video.htm
In Uganda today, a stunning 11 per cent of
The State of the World's Children, 1997 (1996) the total child population are now AIDS
This 1997 video report consists of succinct orphans. Grandparents are playing a
video news items that accompany the leading role in supporting children
report published every year. The video orphaned by AIDS.
report includes short stories for timely