Generationing Poverty: Children’s Perspectives of Childhood Poverty and Wellbeing in Rural Zambia
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The focus of the thesis is on children’s perspectives of poverty and wellbeing based on their lived experiences in rural Lundazi district, Eastern province of Zambia. As a policy buzzword, ‘rural child poverty’ seldom incorporates children’s own perspectives on what poverty means and how it unfolds in their everyday lives. In Zambia, the population of children and youths is rapidly growing and they are amongst the most affected by poverty. Zambian childhoods, like many other childhoods in sub-Saharan Africa, are associated with poverty, lack, and suffering. Yet, literature on rural children’s accounts of how they interpret and experience poverty is limited. The thesis concludes that rural childhood poverty and wellbeing in Zambia is largely relational, located in complex social, cultural, and generational processes in larger social and relational units of families, households and communities where children actively ‘do wellbeing.’ In Article 1, children’s interpretations and experiences of poverty and wellbeing are analysed as subjective, contextual, relational, and processual. Material deprivations reveal the social economic differences highlighted through complex traditional survival practices (ganyu and kaloba, in Articles 1 and 2). Article 2 discusses children’s accounts of their evolving household responsibilities through direct and in-direct household economic and material contributions. It illustrates how social change, especially Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAPs) intersect with rural livelihoods to intensify children’s workload and commodify their labour. The third and final article discusses children’s accounts of their future aspirations and life prospects. It critically analyses the complex relationship of schooling and rural livelihoods amidst rural social transformations such as changing rural agricultural practices, markets, and discourses of livelihood diversification. The empirical data were generated through an ethnographic inspired qualitative research conducted during two seasonal periods in 2012 and 2013. Methods included observations, semi structured interviews, focus group discussions, and informal discussions. Research participants included children and adult guardians. Conceptually, the thesis highlights that ‘childhood’ and ‘poverty’ are diverse—they are both structural as well as socially constructed. Children’s experiences with poverty in rural Lundazi closely reflects multi-dimensional and relative poverty, intermediated by social, historical, economic, and political economic factors. Generationing rural childhood poverty and wellbeing in Zambia highlights that poverty is largely relational, located in complex social, cultural, and generational processes.