Mothering and Families

Despite the long history of movement, which had shaped and continues to shape Johannesburg, the city and many of it’s public services fail to engage adequately with migration and mobility. This has led to cross-border and internal migrants facing many forms of vulnerabilities including challenges faced when accessing healthcare.

Given that many migrants engage in work within the informal economy, including the selling of sex, these vulnerabilities can increase as they face discrimination, exploitation and – specific to selling sex – criminalisation and stigma. Selling sex is just one of a number of livelihood strategies that migrant women engage in as a way of making money, and in particular to support dependants. For women who are mothers and sell sex – the risks and vulnerabilities encountered can be multiple.

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 who are mothers and who sell sex. Using qualitative and mixed methods including semi-structured interviews and an arts-based participatory project we consider the impact of these vulnerabilities and forms of structural violence on migrant mothers and their families.

About Becky Walker

Becky Walker is a research associate 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.