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 Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division, University of Pretoria
The 'small house." An ethnographic investigation into economically independent women and sexual networks in Zimbabwe

My research intends to look at the motivations of middle-class single women involved in long term sexual relationships with married men in Zimbabwe. These women are locally referred to as 'small-houses'. This topic is of interest against a background of women's sexualities and sexual behaviours having been often researched from a moral, neo-liberal development, problematised and medicalised perspective. Such perspectives have often missed out on the nuances of women's sexualities from women's perspectives and lived experiences. They have also failed to recognize how the study of women's sexual behaviors can also be a tool to raise innovative questions about political and socio-economic relations in a society. My study intends to investigate these middle-class women's motivations for getting involved in such seemingly risky and highly stigmatized relationships considering how 'small -house' relationships are categorized as part of the infamous sexual networks and multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, key drivers of HIV in Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa at large. This is also because public health and development discourses especially in HIV and AIDS stricken regions have pointed out the 'feminisation of poverty' as one of the major structural drivers of HIV and this has led to an increased inflow of humanitarian support especially in Zimbabwe, focusing on empowering women through education and increased livelihood strategies opportunities to try and curb women's vulnerabilities to HIV. Yet, more and more studies are showing that there is a higher prevalence of HIV amongst women who are highly educated and are of high socio-economic status. Hence the need to understand women's sexual behaviors, their motivations, desires and practices beyond issues around poverty at face value as well as explore other economic, political and socio-cultural dynamics operating in specific geopolitical contexts.