The Lives of Children Heading Families: Stories as told to Shimelis Tsegaye

  • Child-Headed Households
Pages: 28
Year of Publication: 2008
Country: Africa

I visited 110 child-headed households living in the towns of Dessie, Modjo, Awassa, Shashamene and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and their selected rural surroundings. Some of the heartrending stories they related to me are presented here.  Other stories that they did not tell were based on my observation, interpretation and analysis of their situation including stories of the crumbling houses they live in, the decaying food they eat and the tattered clothes they wear.

This gives you a glimpse into the tragic world of child-headed households, where children are working courageously to maintain a semblance of family life and where children as young as nine are struggling to make ends meet and surviving economic and emotional storms that are completely beyond their capacity.

Millions of children are acting as heads of households, playing an adult role before their physical and emotional maturity is ready and using their survival instinct to develop crude coping mechanisms with insufficient adult support. The following cases invoke the terrible suffering of children living in child-headed households. Children in such families are living in the same houses where their parents succumbed to HIV/ AIDS, devoid of adul t fellowship and struggling with abuse and adverse livelihood challenges. These are families of children whose youthful sense of pleasure has been dulled as a result of the constant traumatic memory of their parents’ painful deaths. Children living in child-headed households are often forgotten citizens with confused identities, called derisive names and stigmatised by society. Many of these children are living lives of extreme deprivation, where even their survival is uncertain. Children caring for siblings, as well as sick and bedridden parents or relatives, have to take on subtle adult roles before they are ready; for example, by administering antiretroviral therapy (ART).

The plight of child-headed households is alarming and unprecedented. The dreams and aspirations for a better future of children in child-headed households are being crushed under the weighty burden of psychological, survival and economic challenges.

Language: English
Published by: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)
Author: Shimelis Tsegaye
Located in: Publications

An independent, not-for-profit, Pan-African
Institute of policy research and dialogue on the African child.

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Founder Assefa Bequele, PhD

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