Grandfathers caring for orphaned grandchildren in rural Southern Malawi : invisible in plain sight?

Lazaro, Mayeso Chinseu

March 2018

Thesis or dissertation

© 2018 Mayeso Chinseu Lazaro. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This thesis explores grandfathers’ caregiving for orphaned grandchildren in rural Southern Malawi. Using an ethnographic approach informed by intersectionality and situated within interpretivist framework, children, young people, and adults from rural impoverished communities of Zomba District were engaged in multiple participatory research activities to collect empirical data as evidence about their views and experiences on/of the topic. The findings suggest that although grandfathers are on the periphery of research and policy on grandparenting in Malawi and other regions of sub-Saharan Africa, they are incontrovertibly at the epicentre of their orphaned grandchildren’s lives. They are providers for their orphaned grandchildren, support their formal education, and are key to intergenerational transmission of knowledge and values through socialisation (informal education), roles which are characterised by intersections of, inter alia, culture, gender, age, physical health, generation, and poverty. Paradoxically, despite performing myriad caring roles in the plain sight of their communities, grandfathers remain largely invisible because of gendered conceptions of care. Subsequently, many grandfathers are systematically excluded from social support programmes, thus highlighting the social exclusion of grandfathers [men] who find themselves in roles not associated with hegemonic notions of masculinities in their communities. This social exclusion from welfare programmes may negatively impact their orphaned grandchildren’s development. Thus, there is need for greater recognition of grandfathers alongside other carers of orphans, and their targeting in social policy and programmes to benefit and assist orphans, particularly to offset livelihood challenges facing grandfathers. Ultimately, this would improve the lives of their orphaned grandchildren. Given the paucity of research on grandfathers’ caregiving for orphaned grandchildren in sub-Saharan Africa, further research is needed to interrogate, inter alia, gendered conceptions of care, gendered social support, and the plight of orphans raised by grandfathers in impoverished communities such as those that participated in this study.

Department of Geography, The University of Hull
Robson, Elsbeth; Walker, Liz; Affolderbach, Julia
Sponsor (Organisation)
University of Hull; Sir Philip Reckitt Educational Trust; Chancellor College
Qualification level
Qualification name
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