Original Research

Exploring structural violence in the context of disability and poverty in Zimbabwe

Jennifer T. Muderedzi, Arne H. Eide, Stine H. Braathen, Babill Stray-Pedersen
African Journal of Disability | Vol 6 | a274 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v6i0.274 | © 2017 Jennifer T. Muderedzi, Arne H. Eide, Stine H. Braathen, Babill Stray-Pedersen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 April 2016 | Published: 18 April 2017

About the author(s)

Jennifer T. Muderedzi, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway
Arne H. Eide, SINTEF Technology and Society, Norway
Stine H. Braathen, SINTEF Technology and Society, Norway
Babill Stray-Pedersen, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway; Division of Women-Rikshospitalet; Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway


Background: While it is widely assumed that disability, poverty and health are closely linked, research falls short of fully understanding the link. One approach to analysing the links between disability and poverty is through the concept of structural violence, referring to social structures that contribute to the impoverishment of individuals or communities. These structures can be political, ecological, legal and economic, among others.
Objective: To explore structural violence and how it affects families of children with cerebral palsy among the Tonga ethnic group living in poor rural communities of Binga in Zimbabwe.
Method: This is a longitudinal, qualitative and ethnographic study. Data were collected over a period of eight years from 2005 to 2013. Data collection techniques were in-depth interviews, participant observation and focus group discussions. Purposive sampling was used to recruit 53 informants.
Results: Structural violence was noted through four themes: internal displacement and development, food and politics, water and sanitation, and social services. Poverty was noted in the form of unemployment, lack of education, healthcare, food and shelter. The concept of structural violence inflicted social suffering on the informants. Politics played a major role in activities such as food withdrawal, lack of water, development and allocation of local resources to ‘the people of the city’, leaving the informants struggling with care.
Conclusion: Political and economic forces have structured risks and created a situation of extreme human suffering. The capabilities approach brings out the challenges associated with cerebral palsy in the context of development challenges.


disability; poverty; development; structural violence


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