n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Culture as anchor or culture as impediment? The plight of child care workers (CCWs) in dealing with HIV related deaths in a children's home

Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1683-0296



This reflective article is based on the experiences of child care workers in a children's home in South Africa, who, when faced with untimely and successive deaths of children from HIV/AIDS related illnesses, resorted to culturally informed emotional coping mechanisms. This is, therefore, not a research study but presents the authors' reflections on the topic and seeks to highlight the need for further exploratory studies in the area of the positive role of cultural practices in HIV/AIDS interventions. The women whose experiences are the focus of the article, adopted culture specific coping mechanisms which they saw as a necessary strategy for managing their distress i.e. an anchor in the face of what they perceived as an "unnatural" occurrence. This, however, conflicted with their organisational identities as employees in an establishment for abandoned/orphaned children, referred to here as a 'Home', thus causing what could be perceived as an impediment to their organisational care-giving services. The authors document the nature of the conflict, highlighting how the care workers adopted 'mothering roles' based on African cultural parenting practices, resulting in the need to perform culturally prescribed rituals, and how this brought about challenges within the workplace. The need for integrating traditional methods of healing with Western approaches of counselling and psychotherapy is reflected on, especially in recognition of the symbolic nature of African healing practices. The article emphasizes the role of culture as an anchor rather than an impediment.

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