Oral Histories

The project purposefully uses a gendered lens through the collection of oral histories from migrant women in the city. These narratives of arriving and living in Durban are the starting point for reflective conversations and dialogue with a broad range of stakeholders. Migrant women have specific experiences and perspectives that are vital to the creation of responsive and inclusive policy frameworks, at present their voices remain silent in official and community level discussions.  Using women’s stories as a foundation ensures that intersecting axis of power and discrimination are addressed within the research, dialogue and educational and awareness activities of the project.

These oral histories were collected by migrant women fieldworkers, both immigrants and refugees, who underwent methodology training in the collection of oral histories. The oral histories collected here represent the stories of arrival of women who come from the Somalia, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. In addition, we also have a data set of oral histories of South African migrant women who have come from rural areas to live in the city in what are commonly called hostels. The objective of including these stories is to purposefully expand the focus of migration to include all migrants into the city, and not only what is becoming a problematic focus on equating migration with foreign nationals. As a collective these rich narratives show a diversity of experiences, but also highlight unexpected commonalities with many South Africans, migrants or otherwise, who share the same everyday contexts of trying to build a ‘good’ life.

The full set of anonymous oral histories is available for download as PDFs on this page. Each PDF has at the top of the page an infographic which illustrates which countries participants have moved from, and through, to reach South Africa, as well as the original language of the transcript, and the permit status of the participant.

We have made these available in the spirit of providing open access to research data that tells a history from below through the voices of the participants themselves, as opposed to only sharing the final product developed by the academic partners. We respectfully ask that if you wish to make use of these stories in any other public forum that you recognize the origins of these narratives, and credit the project accordingly, as well as provide a link to this website.

Sarah’s story

Manu’s story

Mali’s story

Sena’s story

Rosa’s story

Olive’s story

Mathy’s story

Suzy’s story

Farhia’s story

Florence’s story

Tadiwa’s story

Kudzy’s story

Faith’s story

Dina’s story

Yomella’s story

Rihanna’s story

Abigail’s story

Adedayo’s story

Michelle’s story

Busisiwe’s story

MaSibiya’s story

MaNdlovu’s story

Sizeni’s story

Khanyisa’s story

Doris’s story

MaThusi’s story

Nomusa’s story

Phumzile’s story

Thandi’s story

Zinhle’s story