‘We are managing our own lives...’: life transitions and care in sibling-headed households affected by AIDS in Tanzania and Uganda
Evans, R. (2011) ‘We are managing our own lives...’: life transitions and care in sibling-headed households affected by AIDS in Tanzania and Uganda. Area, 43 (4). pp. 384-396. ISSN 1475-4762
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2010.00954.x
This paper explores the ways that young people express their agency and negotiate complex lifecourse transitions according to gender, age and inter- and intra-generational norms in sibling-headed households affected by AIDS in East Africa. Based on findings from a qualitative and participatory pilot study in Tanzania and Uganda, I examine young people's socio-spatial and temporal experiences of heading the household and caring for their siblings following their parent's/relative's death. Key dimensions of young people's caring pathways and life transitions are discussed: transitions into sibling care; the ways young people manage changing roles within the family; and the ways that young people are positioned and seek to position themselves within the community. The research reveals the relational and embodied nature of young people's life transitions over time and space. By living together independently, young people constantly reproduce and reconfigure gendered, inter- and intra-generational norms of ‘the family’, transgressing the boundaries of ‘childhood’, ‘youth’ and ‘adulthood’. Although young people take on ‘adult’ responsibilities and demonstrate their competencies in ‘managing their own lives’, this does not necessarily translate into more equal power relations with adults in the community. The research reveals the marginal ‘in-between’ place that young people occupy between local and global discourses of ‘childhood’ and ‘youth’ that construct them as ‘deviant’. Although young people adopt a range of strategies to resist marginalisation and harassment, I argue that constraints of poverty, unequal gender and generational power relations and the emotional impacts of sibling care, stigmatisation and exclusion can undermine their ability to exert agency and control over their sexual relationships, schooling, livelihood strategies and future lifecourse transitions.