Current Institutional Affiliation
Junior Researcher, Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Award Information

Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division, University of Pretoria
“The small house”: An ethnographic investigation into economically independent women and sexual networks in Zimbabwe.

This study examines the small house' concept 'in Zimbabwe focusing on economically independent women's motives for engaging in sexual relationships with married men. 'Small house' is a colloquial and derogatory term that describes a married man's quasi-polygamous, informal, long term, secret sexual relationship with another woman. General public and private discourse conceptualises the small house as survival transactional sex and as a key driver of Zimbabwe's HIV epidemic. Consequently, public health campaigns educate people about the dangers of small housing as part of multiple concurrent partnerships and sexual networks discourses linked to the HIV epidemic. While economic inequalities between genders exist globally, narrow focused frameworks embedded in health and poverty discourses do injustice to the diversity and complexity of sex research. Pinning women's motivations for engaging in 'small-houses' to lack of empowerment, sexual agency and poverty excludes some categories of seemingly 'low-risk' women including the educated, economically stable, high socio-economic status women who knowingly and 'willingly' engage in these highly stigmatized sexual relationships. Such approaches to the small house phenomenon neglect the intricacies and complex interconnections between sexual intimacy, desire, economic strategising and political manoeuvring. My research therefore investigates the complexity through exploring the meanings these women attach to being small houses and their experiences in these relationships as they are intertwined with broader changing social, economic, political and cultural contexts in which they are located.