Becky Walker


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Becky Walker is a postdoctoral research fellow with the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS).

With a background in Social Anthropology and Development Becky’s work has largely explored women’s experiences of everyday violence in both South Asia and Southern Africa. Becky holds an Msc and PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh where her research focused on the conflict in Sri Lanka and women’s strategies for negotiating everyday violence.

In 2010 Becky moved to South Africa to take up a Postdoctoral fellowship with the Centre of Indian Studies in Africa (CISA) at Wits University and also taught Gender and Development as a sessional lecturer in Social Anthropology. In 2013 she then was awarded a Wotro-funded postdoctoral project through ACMS that explored the multiple vulnerabilities faced by migrant sex workers in Johannesburg.

The project considered the impact of migration legislation, trafficking discourses and transnational networks on feelings of belonging amongst migrant sex workers in Johannesburg and Amsterdam. It also drew from an innovative arts based participatory project that Becky and a colleague ran in a women’s shelter in inner-city Johannesburg, and on-going research at ACMS into sex work, migration and trafficking. Becky’s current work builds on the Wotro project to explore the vulnerabilities faced by migrant mothers who sell sex in South Africa with a particular focus on the intersections of mothering, being migrants and selling sex and also, challenges encountered such as access to healthcare, stigmatisation and discrimination.

Becky has published widely from her research including a articles and chapters on everyday violence, sex work, trafficking and migration and sex work and motherhood.


Posts by Author

PODCAST: 702’s ‘The Political Desk’ interview with Rebecca Walker

September 12, 2019 0 Comments

“To suggest that foreign nationals are grabbing jobs from South Africans is not supported by the research”, says maHp/ACMS postdoctoral fellow Rebecca Walker, during her recent interview with Talk Radio 702’s Bongani Bingwa, on ‘The Political Desk’ show, about xenophobia and migration in South Africa.

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Southern Africa needs better health care for women and girls on the move

August 1, 2019 0 Comments

Health responses need to take on board the fact that the number of women and girls migrating across borders as well as within countries is growing.

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‘If this isn’t for my children, who is it for?’ Exploring experiences of structural violence among migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg

August 6, 2018 0 Comments

This article examines the vulnerabilities and forms of structural violence experienced by migrant mothers who sell sex.

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Labels, victims, and insecurity: an exploration of the lived realities of migrant women who sell sex in South Africa

June 4, 2018 0 Comments

Based on research work among cross-border migrant women who sell sex in South Africa, this paper examines the ways in which the label ‘victim’ of human trafficking ignores the complex realities of human mobility.

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Mwangaza Mama: meaning and moments

January 30, 2018 0 Comments

So after a discussion the women chose “Mwangaza Mama”. “Mwangaza”, a Swahili word that translates literally as “light”. However, the women also described it as meaning “joy”, “love” and “caring”. “Mama is a term of respect used for all women – with or without children” they told us.

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The burden of care

November 3, 2017 0 Comments

In a world and especially in a country where women’s bodies are systematically oppressed and violated – and where poor, black, foreign bodies are easily treated as disposable and unimportant – being a mother adds layers of fear, threat and physical and emotional burden.

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“Being Seen”: Reflections on an arts-based research project with refugee women in Johannesburg

October 16, 2017 0 Comments

Postdoctoral fellow Becky Walker reflects on the “Life in the City” arts-based research project, which explores the experiences of women who are migrants and mothers living in inner-city Johannesburg.

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Negotiating the city: Exploring the intersecting vulnerabilities of non-national migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg, South Africa

August 3, 2017 0 Comments

This article explores the intersecting vulnerabilities of non-national migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg, South Africa – one of the most unequal cities in the world.

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Poking the wound – research, stories and process – thinking through the complexities

April 20, 2017 0 Comments

maHp/ACMS postdoctoral researcher Becky Walker’s latest blog reflections on her current arts-based research project with migrant women/mothers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi who live in inner-city Johannesburg, and are seeking asylum. 

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‘If this isn’t for my children, who is it for?’ Exploring experiences of structural violence among migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg

March 1, 2017 0 Comments

This paper examines the vulnerabilities and forms of structural violence experienced by migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg. It argues that to develop a greater understanding of this group of migrant mothers there is a need to further explore the challenges that they face as well as the multiple roles negotiated in everyday life.

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Health systems and migration

December 6, 2016

South Africa, like the rest of the Southern African Development Community, has a high prevalence of communicable diseases, an increasing non-communicable disease burden, and diverse internal and cross-border population movements.  However, migration-aware responses are currently lacking.  This research explores the ways in which migration and mobility affect health systems, and suggests ways to improve responses to the movement of people.  

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Selling Sex, Mothering and “Keeping Well” in the City: Reflecting on the Everyday Experiences of Cross-Border Migrant Women Who Sell Sex in Johannesburg

November 24, 2016 0 Comments

Drawing from interviews with non-national or cross-border migrant women who sell sex on a regular basis, this paper explores experiences of selling sex, motherhood and ‘keeping well’ through the lens of the city.

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Mothering and Families

August 8, 2016

Under this project we take migration as a lens to explore the ways in which forms of vulnerability, as created and shaped by the urban spaces of the city, are encountered and negotiated in the everyday city lives of migrant women…

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