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Inheritance, poverty and HIV/AIDS: Experiences of widows and orphaned youth heading households in Tanzania and Uganda

This publication is part of a series on 'Asset inheritance and the intergenerational transmission of poverty'

Ruth Evans
Caroline Day


This paper investigates inheritance practices and the intergenerational transmission of poverty for two particularly marginalised groups: 1) widows living with HIV and children caring for them; and 2) orphaned young people heading households without a co-resident adult relative. Qualitative interviews conducted with 85 participants (women with HIV, young people with caring responsibilities and non-governmental organisation workers) in rural and urban areas of Tanzania and Uganda provided in-depth insights into the ways HIV- and AIDS-related stigma is linked to gender and generational inequalities in access to assets.

The research suggests that the HIV and AIDS epidemic has led to a fracturing of the intergenerational contract in severely affected communities in Tanzania and Uganda. Some young people are taking on caring responsibilities and gaining access to land and property at a younger age than usual. Access to land and/or property is crucial to the formation and viability of sibling-headed households. Stigma and discrimination, however, have negative impacts on women’s and young people’s health and emotional well-being, and in some instances leads to disinheritance and asset loss. This results in a lack of investment in children’s education and care and the perpetuation of conditions of chronic poverty for younger generations.

This research calls for a holistic approach to understanding women’s and young people’s access to resources and their present and future security. A complex range of factors influence their vulnerability and resilience to inheritance/disinheritance and chronic poverty. Key protective factors include social capital; written evidence of bequests, property ownership and land titles; awareness of gender and generational inequalities; and advocacy. Women’s and children’s capacities to safeguard their inheritance and avoid chronic poverty in the present and future can be enhanced through legal support, advocacy and education on inheritance rights; rights-based social protection measures; and opportunities for participation, peer support and collective mobilisation.

This paper is one of a series on Asset inheritance and the intergenerational transmission of poverty commissioned and published by the CPRC. It was first presented at a Roundtable on Inheritance and the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty hosted jointly by the CPRC and the Overseas Development Institute on 11 October 2010.

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


intergenerational transmission of poverty vulnerability assets childhood poverty HIV AIDS inheritance Asset inheritance and IGT of poverty series

ISBN: 978-1-906433-91-8


1 Inheritance, poverty and HIV/AIDS PDF 683.5 KB

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