Original Research - Special Collection: Women Theologies

Elderly women and COVID-19 vaccination in the indigenous religio-culture of the Ndau of south-eastern Zimbabwe

Macloud Sipeyiye
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 2 | a7768 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i2.7768 | © 2022 Macloud Sipeyiye | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 May 2022 | Published: 21 October 2022

About the author(s)

Macloud Sipeyiye, College of Human Sciences, Research Institute for Theology and Religion (RITR), University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and Department of Religious Studies and Ethics, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Midlands State University, Zvishavane, Zimbabwe


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Abstract

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is steadily becoming a tameable, mild communicable disease globally. In the Western countries and some countries in Asia, such as China, for example, this milestone is owed to a high response to vaccination programmes. The same cannot be said of Africa, where the uptake of vaccines has not been encouraging. In Zimbabwe, for example, the government had intended to vaccinate at least 10 million of its estimated 16 million population in order to reach herd immunity. The figures are still very small, indicating vaccine hesitancy. In this article, it is contended that vaccination campaigns must be adapted to local religious culture and engage critically with the elderly women in particular. Indigenous religio-cultural beliefs and practices can either mobilise or immobilise individuals and communities in implementing the COVID-19 containment measures, depending on how they are approached. To this end, any response to the pandemic should never be exclusively unidirectional. This article employs cultural hermeneutics as its lens of analysis. It does not only seek to promote life-giving values associated with elderly women in African religio-cultures but also to interrogate negative practices driven by religio-culture that put their lives at risk in the era of COVID-19. Elderly women are at worst vulnerable to the disease, and at best they are the hub of communities’ health services. Packaging the vaccination campaigns in the religio-cultural and spiritual consciousness of a people has a potential to increase vaccine uptake in line with the spirit of Goal 3 of the United Nations Agenda 2030. This article is both theoretical and empirical. It uses the Ndau of south-eastern Zimbabwe to ascertain the meaning that they create about the elderly women’s interaction with the public health call for vaccination in the context of their religio-culture. The term ‘religio-culture’ has been used because throughout Africa, religion and culture are inseparably tied together. Data are generated through interviews with key informants.

Contributions: Elderly women are vulnerable to COVID-19. Despite their vulnerability, Ndau elderly women find themselves compelled by their religio-culture to respond to the crisis in their communities. There is no literature that addresses the paradox and its attendant opportunities and challenges that characterise the circumstances of elderly women in the context of COVID-19 in the efforts to motivate vaccine uptake. The article shows that indigenous religio-cultural beliefs and practices can either mobilise or immobilise individuals and communities in taking the COVID-19 vaccines, depending on how they are approached.


Keywords

coronavirus; vaccination; vaccine hesitancy; elderly women; indigenous religio-cultural beliefs; cultural hermeneutics.

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