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We have just discovered a series of papers published in 2011 about the roles of children and young people in running house holds, care giving and resilience. Not Just a Victim: The Child as Catalyst and Witness of Contemporary Africa is free, but you will need to register to download it. We wanted to highlight these three papers in particular:

Bending the Generational Rules: Agency of Children and Young People in ‘Child-Headed’ Households

Since the late 1980s, awareness has grown about the negative impacts of the HIV epidemic on children. Although the focus was first on children who were orphaned due to HIV, international attention shifted to ‘orphans and vulnerable children’ during the 1990s because the problems children experience are not necessarily related to orphanhood. Among those perceived as most vulnerable are children living outside parental, adult or family care, such as in the case of child-headed households. Because of the expected increase in the number of child-headed households in sub-Sahara Africa, there has been much discussion about an appropriate response.

These discussions focus largely on the question of whether such households are an alternative option for (orphaned) children as opposed to foster care by the extended family, foster families or institutions. However, little is known about how children cope in child-headed households, how they experience their lives, or simply how they manage to get food on the table. In order to be able to provide appropriate support to child-headed households, insights are needed about children’s own views and experiences and the ways they cope in this regard.

by Diana van Dijk (page 21)

Using a “Kids Club Method” to Understand Experiences of Children Orphaned by AIDS in North-Central Namibia

This chapter is devoted to the use of a “Kids Club Method” as a means of conducting research on sensitive issues by dialoguing with children, and the evaluation and effects of this method six years later. North-Central Namibia is a heavily affected region, with a HIV prevalence level that is amongst the highest in the country. In 2003/2004, I conducted a study on the experiences and perceptions of young orphans in North-Central Namibia on the loss of their parents and their changed life circumstances (Van der Brug, 2007). In order to create an environment in which children would feel comfortable and safe to talk about these sensitive issues, I set up an after-school Kids Club with young orphans which met over the course of several months. In 2010, I returned to Namibia to follow up on the 14 children who participated in the research.

by Mienke van der Brug (page 43)

Agency, Resilience and the Psychosocial Well-Being of Caregiving Children: Experiences from Western Kenya

Holding the babyAIDS remains a leading cause of mortality worldwide and is the primary cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS/WHO 2007). Experiencing this epidemic first-hand are the children of those infected by AIDS, many of whom provide care and support for their parents or guardians. Care is often provided in difficult circumstances with inadequate access to antiretroviral drugs and palliative care services. With many children witnessing the slow disintegration of their parents’ health and taking the role as the primary caregiver and head of house, it is perhaps no surprise that the circumstances of children living in households affected by AIDS have alarmed many academics, policy makers and mental health professionals. This is reflected by the growing body of literature on young caregiving and children of child-headed households in Africa. Whilst some of this literature is reflective and provides a balanced account of the positive and negative outcomes of young caregiving, and acknowledges children as social actors, there is still a tendency to side with the dominant discourse in viewing caregiving children as victims in urgent need of psychological support.

It is the aim of this chapter to problematise any one-sided stereotype of caregiving children as passive and incompetent victims with solely detrimental experiences. To achieve this, I will first argue that this continued victimological focus on caregiving children is a result of dominant Western understandings of childhood and mental health. I will then give evidence to show how the psychosocial well-being of many caregiving children is rooted in a social context that draws on local understandings of childhood, which helps them participate in community life and build resilience.

by Morten Skovdal (page 247)

Really excellent papers, we would encourage you to register and download the document for free now.