Gendered childcare norms — evidence from rural Swaziland to inform innovative structural HIV prevention approaches for young women
Addressing discriminatory gender norms is a prerequisite for preventing HIV in women, including young women. However, the gendered expectation that women will perform unpaid childcare-related labour is rarely conceptualised as influencing their HIV risk. Our aim was to learn from members of a rural Swazi community about how gendered childcare norms. We performed sequential, interpretive analysis of focus group discussion and demographic survey data, generated through participatory action research. The results showed that gendered childcare norms were firmly entrenched and intertwined with discriminatory norms regarding sexual behaviour. Participants perceived that caring for children constrained young women’s educational opportunities and providing for children’s material needs increased their economic requirements. Some young women were perceived to engage in “transactional sex” and depend financially on men, including “sugar daddies”, to provide basic necessities like food for the children they cared for. Our results suggested that men were no longer fulfilling their traditional role of caring for children’s material needs, despite women’s traditional role of caring for their physical and emotional needs remaining firmly entrenched. The results indicate that innovative approaches to prevent HIV in young women should incorporate structural approaches that aim to transform gendered norms, economically empower women and implement policies guaranteeing women equal rights.
Keywords: gender inequality, participatory action research, social determinants of health, structural approaches, women’s health