Breaking the Shackles of Gender Stereotyping to Create New Norms: The Case of Zimbabwean Migrant Women in Mthatha Town
Keywords:gender, gender stereotyping, migration, socio-economic challenges, women migrants
The migration of Zimbabweans into South Africa is shaped by several factors and processes. Traditionally, the decision to migrate was mostly based on family considerations (where gender stereotypic roles were a priority), although in some cases the migrants exercised individualism and personal agency. This led to migration trends that were male dominated. Current Zimbabwean migration trends reflect large volumes of women as the socio-economic crisis forces them to leave their country. These migrant women encounter a myriad of challenges in their host countries. This paper explores Zimbabwean women’s migration to the town of Mthatha in South Africa, highlighting their challenges and the strategies they employ to overcome these, as found in a recent case study. Applying a qualitative research design and using questionnaires and interviews to gather data from the 100 purposively sampled women, the study found that many Zimbabwean migrant women in Mthatha encountered numerous challenges. They lacked the required documents to live and work in South Africa, experienced exploitation and marriage constraints, and had broken ties with their families back in Zimbabwe. According to the study, these women managed to navigate these challenges, rising above the stereotypic norms and values that used to label them as non-productive citizens to superheroes who were supporting their families and the country’s economy—thus breaking the shackles of gender stereotyping to create new norms. These findings underline the importance of shifting from the traditional approaches to women migration and pursuing perspectives that present migration as a critical component of the process of social change and development to all migrants.