Being an orphan is a life that nobody asks for, and don’t even wish for their own children. Unfortunately this is a reality for over 71% of children in In Eswatini according to UNICEF. Luckily, some of these children are not completely alone.
With over 10% of children that are unable to take care of themselves, caregivers have become the primary source of support for children. Their job is to impact the child with positive behaviours and facilitate their development in all aspects, namely physical, psychological, emotional, social and educational. This is no easy task, however many people across Eswatini have risen to the challenge.
Most caregivers are women aged 50 – 54 and have everyday challenges themselves, however, they do their best to help children strive to be better. The Save the Children KAP Baseline Report found that most of the caregivers are widows who survive by growing and selling vegetables in their communities, with some being known to be dagga harvesters. The report points out that “In terms of poverty and economic characteristics, the caregivers are similar to the children they take care of, the OVCs, the only difference is the age”. Although they have very little themselves, these women give what they can and are always within 30 minutes walk from the care centres.
Save the Children started a project that gives the caregivers training on how to positively support children. Vulnerable children not only have to deal with the lack of food, education and health services, but the study also showed that love and belonging is the most important thing they need and unfortunately lack. This is where caregivers step in, providing love, guidance, care and support, as well as basic needs.
The training is essential for making sure that the caregiver understands the scope of their work. They need to be skilled in counselling, report writing and advocacy, teaching; life skills education, cooking and food knowledge, psychosocial support and gender-based violence issues; early childhood care and development; and mentorship and livelihood skills. That is a long list of requirements, and truthfully it isn’t easy, however, the caregivers also learn skills that can help them better themselves e.g. saving and lending principles, record keeping and small business development and profit tracking as well as group management and safe money handling.
Caregiving is both an art and a science. It requires emotional and technical understanding, that’s why the intense training is essential. The women that participated in this project have positive attitudes for such an intense job. It’s great to see that there are still people out there who are willing to lend a helping hand to children who don’t have anyone.