Securing South Africa's Future Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS as a Model for Social Development Change

Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International studies

Committee Director

Jennifer N. Fish

Committee Member

Steve Yetiv

Committee Member

Francis Adams

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.I45 E25


Focusing on the role of elder women in South Africa as a lens to understand the central connections among HIV/ AIDS, poverty and Human Security provides a distinct approach to analyze women's contributions to community development and social change. Drawing from the theories of Gender and Development and Human Security, this research aims to highlight HIV/ AIDS as a social and political security issue, while underscoring the vitality of the inclusion of women in the processes of peace building, reconciliation, education and social development. Furthermore, the influential role of elder women in South Africa will serve as a model in support of the central connections between gender and human security. From the analysis of original research collected among a group of grandmothers based in Khayelitsha, South Africa, the role of elder women will be situated within the larger structure of poverty and HIV/ AIDS within the larger national context of ongoing socio-economic development processes. Focusing specifically on the grassroots civil society organization Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA), the social restructuring caused by HIV/AIDS and its impact on elder women will be illuminated as a critical consequence of the global pandemic. While grandmothers take on the dual leading roles of both caretakers and educators, their stories, prevention efforts and contributions to the larger picture of development often go unrecognized. From the original data collected over two field visits to South Africa, this thesis integrates personal narratives of grandmother leaders with an organizational evaluation of the role of GAP A to highlight how elder women, who continually defy race, class and gender stereotypes, overcome both the social and economic obstacles within the context of the dual burden of poverty and HIV/AIDS in this post-apartheid context. Findings from this study demonstrate that elder women provide not only core foundational support systems and community social cohesion within Khayelitsha, but also central human security functions within the larger socio-economic context of South Africa's post-conflict transition. The original data in this study demonstrate how GAPA serves as a replicable model of change and encompasses a larger representation of the power of women's community activism roles in post-conflict social development and peace building.


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