Women, Xenophobia, and Afrophobia

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This Women’s Day event centered on the role that African women living in South Africa can play by joining together in preventing xenophobic attacks. Various women’s organisations attended the event, including ZIWISA, which is a Zimbabwean union in South Africa that represents migrant domestic workers in South Africa.

Women shared their experiences on what its like to be a woman in South Africa and the struggles they have faced in xenophobic attacks. One woman gave an account of how she has struggled with her children after her husband was killed in 2008 during the xenophobic attacks. The discussions revealed the hardships women are facing in a foreign land, especially when they try to look for work, as they become vulnerable to exploitation even if they do manage to find work, and they are treated as outsiders.

Different speakers also got the platform to speak on Afrophobia, which was described as a scenario in which black people are fighting each other, for example some of the police are seen targeting black people demanding papers to ascertain one’s legality in South Africa, but the same treatment is not applied to white immigrants. The celebrations revealed that poor areas, which have high levels of poverty, are a key element in determining which areas are prone to xenophobic attacks.

The meeting also tasked women with researching the underlying issues that lead to the 2008 xenophobic attacks, as migration itself has existed since time immemorial, and therefore the root causes are likely to be more complex than migration alone. The discussions also delved on the role of foreign nationals in contributing to the economy, many of whom are exporters of South African goods, which makes them an asset to the economy.

The women were encouraged to play an important role in leading discussions on xenophobic attacks in their communities and working together in unison, regardless of colour.

The Woman’s day celebrations were organized by COSATU in partnership with the Department of Community Safety.

Photo by USAID U.S. Agency for International Development on Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0