Gender roles and livelihood security among women in Zambia: The case of Angolan and Rwandan refugees in MEHEBA refugee settlement
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Zambia has hosted many foreigners and refugees. Refugee population is spread in all corners of the country. Males account for seventy five per cent while females account for twenty five per cent of refugee population in camps (Zambia Statistical Year Book, 2013). Once settled, these refugees face a number of challenges due to flight and displacement. Women refugees in particular face a number of challenges especially when it comes to gender roles and livelihood security. The aim of the study was to find out about gender roles and its impact on livelihood security among women refugees in Meheba refugee settlement. This study was guided by the following objectives: To determine the gender roles among women refugees, to examine the livelihood security among women refugees and to investigate the impacts of gender roles on livelihood security among women refugees in Meheba refugee settlement. This study used both qualitative and quantitative approach in order to arrive at an in-depth understanding of the gender roles and livelihood security among refugee women in Zambia. Purposive sampling was used to collect a total number of one hundred and twenty individuals to participate in this study. One hundred and fifteen participants were refugees, that is, thirty men and eighty five women while five were officials from UNHCR. Semi structured and unstructured Interviews and focus groups were used as data collection methods. Data was analyzed thematically and through the statistical package for social sciences From the paper it was clear that women were abused and exploited in the name of gender roles. The study revealed that women were overloaded with work in cases where their husbands were disabled or unwilling to do lowly paid jobs. Men were perceived as public spheres who were only interested in making money for themselves by engaging in businesses such as fishing and selling agriculture crops while women were perceived as domestic spheres with the responsibility of caring for their children. The study also revealed that women changed their ways of life in terms of their livelihood security and adopted coping strategies such as depending on social network, engaging in businesses such as hair plaiting, agriculture and also prostitution in order for them to enhance their livelihood security. In conclusion it is important to take into account the change in gender roles and socioeconomic status that often occurs during displacement. It was clear that the livelihood of women refugees in the settlement needs to be enhanced. It is therefore, recommended that UNHCR and the host Government implement a livelihood programs that specifically benefit women, while at the same time involving men. Women and girls should be accorded an opportunity that will allow them collect water and fuel without any fear of being raped or abused. Women refugees should be given freedom of movement to do business and distribution of food within the settlement should take into account issues of gender and ensure that this food reaches all. Furthermore, the entire refugee community should be educated on issues to do with gender and how these can deter the livelihood security of women if they remain unaddressed.
The University of Zambia