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Hidden Child Workers: Young Carers in Zimbabwe

Drawing on an interview-based case study of young people caring for dependent adult members of their households in Harare, this paper connects the experiences of young carers in Zimbabwe to global forces—namely the HIV/AIDS pandemic and economic liberalisation. It is argued, firstly, that care-giving by young people is a largely hidden and unappreciated aspect of national economies which is growing as an outcome of conservative macroeconomic policies and the HIV/AIDS explosion. Secondly, that young people have a right to recognition of their work as work. Thirdly, while acknowledging that conceptualising childhood is problematic, there needs to be less emphasis on northern myths of childhood as a time of play and innocence and more attention on defending children's rights to work as well as to be supported in their work under appropriate circumstances. The articulation between global processes and the localised experiences of individual children as providers of care within the home contributes to efforts to re-introduce social reproduction as an important (but often missing) aspect of debates around globalisation. In addition, this article adds to the growing literature on the geographies of childhood while tackling the imbalance within that literature, whereby working young people and those of the global South are relatively neglected. Suggestions are offered in the conclusions for policy recommendations to recognise and support young carers in Africa, while calling for further research.

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