Xenophobia and human security: gender-based violence experiences of Zimbabwean women working in the Informal sector in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
Mutambara, Lillias Hamufari Natsai.
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The world is increasingly interconnected to such an extent that internal and international migration have become a glaring reality that is visible in all four corners of the globe. A dearth of research shows that the new wave of migration appears to be highly gendered with the number of women migrating increasing. However, the experiences that migrant women face tend to be similar and they face common challenges and vulnerabilities. Therefore, the central focus of the study was to probe the xenophobic and gender-based violence sentiments that migrant women encounter in South Africa. It specifically used a sample of Zimbabwean women working in South Africa’s informal sector as their challenges are different from those women who were working in the formal sector. The study focused on the premise that there is a thin line between xenophobic sentiments and gender-based violence which affects the women’s experiences and reality enormously. The study showed how the protracted economic challenges, coupled with cycles of structural poverty and violence in Zimbabwe constructed their insecurities. It showed that most of the women fled these insecurities to other xenophobic and gender-based violence related insecurities which they possibly did not anticipate before they made the decision to migrate from Zimbabwe to South Africa. The study used a qualitative research approach to collect relevant data that comprehensively described the reality and experiences of informally employed Zimbabwean migrant women in South Africa. Snowball and purposive sampling was used to select the women who participated for the study. Thematic and content analysis were used to analyze the empirical data. To understand the lived experiences of the women, the study mainly used the structural violence theory, social ecological model and the social constructivism theory. These theories enhanced the understanding of how social reality constantly shapes the development of situations that disadvantage migrant women. In addition, the triadic conflict theory was also used to interpret the development of social and political conflict that affects migrant women.The findings of the study revealed that most of the women experienced xenophobic attacks and in some instances, it was laced with gender-based violence attacks due to their identity as migrant and female. The findings of the study revealed that the women are not always victims, in some instances they manipulate their victimhood to have agency. This study makes a meaningful contribution to the body of knowledge as it attempts to highlight the fluidity of xenophobic and gender-based violence challenges that migrant women encounter, it also highlights the women’s coping mechanisms.