Responding to Multi-Dimensional Poverty: Exploring the Impacts of Government, Community, and the Individual Resilience of HIV-positive Unemployed Mothers in Khayelitsha

Working Paper


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Millions of women and children are living in poverty in South Africa.?Many interventions have been implemented in an attempt to alleviate their poverty, from government assistance grants to community-based organizations.?However, mothers also employ their own coping mechanisms to mitigate the impacts of poverty in their households. Following a model of multi-dimensional poverty that incorporates material, emotional, spiritual, and social elements of poverty, this paper explores the various ways that government, community, and individuals are making an impact on the experience of poverty among impoverished families with young children.?Through participant observation and in-depth, qualitative interviews with HIV-positive, unemployed mothers belonging to Philani Nutrition Center's Outreach program, this study came to several key conclusions. One, government social assistance grants alleviate only minor forms of material deprivation among poor families and, due to their limited scope, fail to sufficiently address the poverty of unemployed households. Two, social networks and community resources provide a significant source of emotional support for unemployed mothers, especially those with HIV. Philani Nutrition Center's peer-based outreach model addresses many of the gaps left by government programs in achieving greater overall quality of life in the lives of impoverished women and children. Three, individual resiliency among mothers contributes to their family's wellbeing as well, as the women employ their own strengths and identify creative solutions to mitigate the effects of poverty. This paper concludes that it is important to analyze the specific impacts of various poverty alleviation interventions to ensure that all aspects of a family's wellbeing are sufficiently addressed. Looking at the strategies employed by mothers living in poverty offers valuable insight into the capabilities of the poor, as well as highlighting areas where further support is needed.