‘Being able to bear a child’: Insights from Zimbabwean women in Melbourne Academic Article uri icon


  • PROBLEM:In non-Western societies, childlessness carries numerous social consequences and has a significant impact on the gender identity and well-being of the women. BACKGROUND:The desire of women in non-Western societies is governed by numerous socio-cultural expectations including social norms and their own social position. At present, little is known about how Zimbabwean migrant women living in Australia perceive and experience childlessness and motherhood. AIM:To discuss how children are seen in Zimbabwean culture and examine the personal and social ramification of infertility and cultural expectations of motherhood among Zimbabwean migrant women living in Australia. The perspectives and experiences of this migrant community are crucial so that we can avoid misunderstanding about the essence of motherhood among Zimbabwean women. This will ultimately lead to sensitive and culturally appropriate health and social care for migrants in a multicultural society of Australia. METHODS:The study is situated within the constructivist paradigm. Qualitative methods (in-depth interviewing, drawings and photo elicitation) were conducted with 15 Zimbabwean women. Data were analysed using thematic analysis method. FINDINGS:Being able to bear a child in Zimbabwean culture had a significant meaning to the women. Not only children could ensure the continuity of the society, having children was a form of social security as parents would be cared for by their children in old age. Childlessness threatens the social position of a woman and carries social consequences which significantly impact on their gender identity and well-being. Cultural expectations of motherhood placed the sole responsibility of caring for the children emotionally and physically on the mother. CONCLUSION:The procreative value has not diminished despite having settled in Australia. An increased awareness of procreative needs for Zimbabwean women in a culturally and sensitive manner would enhance the emotional well-being of these women.

publication date

  • 2019