The social construction of identity in HIV/AIDS home-based care volunteers in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • T Naidu
  • Y Sliep
  • W Dageid
Keywords: HIV/AIDS care and support, volunteers, narratives, social construction of identity, context, agency


Home-based care volunteer (HBCV) identity and how it is shaped was the main focus of the study. Fifteen HBCVs were interviewed about their work and personal life stories and then interviewed reflectively using a narrative interviewing style. Specific attention was paid to contextual meta-narratives and social field narratives in understanding the women’s stories. Findings indicate that social field narratives of the women’s stories were dominated by negative aspects of gender, poverty and socio-political factors. These were seen to coincide with the ‘feminisation of responsibility’ in this context effectively coercing the women into agency which manifested as their
home-based care work. Meta-narratives influencing the women’s lives were dominated by stories of communal motherhood, aspirations to service-oriented work and religious beliefs and commitment. The question of how it is possible for women who are seemingly constrained by oppressive narratives to voluntarily engage in community participation was answered in the women’s personal life stories about being compassionate, hopeful, helpful and ambitious and having initiative. These characteristics
collectively pointed to personal agency. Exploring connections between the different aspects of identity and context revealed that the women made sense of their community participation through their personal identities as strong and loving mothers. Connections between volunteer personal identity, agency and volunteer group identity were explored to make sense of the link between HBCV identity and volunteerism. The mother identity, encompassing personal agency (strength or power) and love (the
meta-narrative of communal motherly love), was salient in influencing community participation of the group.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1813-4424
print ISSN: 1729-0376