This study is based on data from in-depth individual interviews carried out in a poor township, Ngangelizwe in Mthatha, South Africa. It discusses and describes the livelihoods and strategies of low–income households headed by elderly (>60years old) women. The study draws primarily on interviews with 15 elderly women who are receiving or not receiving State pension, selling goods or receiving or not receiving a Child Support Grant from the government for their grandchildren in order to meet the daily challenges they are faced with. It discusses the cultivation of social networks and how these networks in turn impact on the livelihoods, health, survival and social adjustment of the elderly women. This includes reports of these women’s perceptions of poverty, their incomes (the majority (thirteen) were receiving a State pension) as well as a professional pension. The study also reports on the strategies they used to try and avoid poverty through participation in income generating activities, having their grandchildren engaging in income-earning activities mostly after school or during holidays. The study underscores the reality of the adjustments and coping measures that the women have to adopt when faced with new challenges as a result of high morbidity and mortality among adults in the reproductive age groups. The findings of this study indicate that for most women, the inability to attain basic essentials of life leads to loss of self-dignity. Socio-economic factors such as low levels of education, unemployment, little or no income, poor access to resources, many dependants and looking after their children who suffer from HIV/AIDS among the women create a situation where they operate within the “little opportunities” circle. The evidence in this study suggests that social support groups, a pension grant, a child support grant and remittances from their children helped to mitigate some of the poverty experiences of the elderly women. The study also shows that there is a dire need for intensification of poverty reduction programmes at community levels. Women have to be supported with institutional credit to grow and expand their businesses. They need the support and assistance of government in taking care of their sick children and grandchildren due to HIV/AIDS.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2011.