Livelihood strategies among urban refugee women in Lusaka

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Mgbangson, Aniko Tunde
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Refugee women support themselves and their families in an alien urban environment, and most of them, according to the Zambia Urban Residency Policy, illegally. This is usually so without the assistance of aid agencies. Earlier systematic and detailed studies on refugees focused mainly on the larger number of rural refugees and relatively few studies discussed the experiences of urban refugees, especially that of women. The primary aim of the study was to find out about ways refugee women earn their livelihood in Lusaka, in order to make recommendations for improved programs targeting women refugees in urban settings. A qualitative research was carried out using in-depth interviews to collect data from forty urban refugee women living in different parts of Lusaka. An interview schedule guided the interviews. Convenient sampling was used to find forty participants. The interviews were conducted mainly in the Zambia Red Cross Urban Refugee Project Outreach Centres. The interviews were tape-recorded. Qualitative analysis was used to find recurring ideas to form the categories important for the participants. Urban refugee women actively participated in income generating activities regardless of their social, cultural and educational background. The chief employer of refugees was the informal sector as it did not demand large start-up capital, knowledge of language or specific levels of education. The results showed that most of the urban refugee women settled in Lusaka for economic reasons. This created tension between the refugees' interest and the government's aim to remove refugees from urban areas to camps. The participants could afford only the basic necessities and most of the income was spent on rent, food and school fees. Large, female-headed households were the most vulnerable economically. Their children's education was the biggest priority for the women and for their economic hardship they mostly blamed the Urban Residence Policy which made earnings without a Work Permit illegal. Most of the women perceived the support offered to them as insufficient for basic needs. It was concluded that most of the urban refugee women in Lusaka worked because their income generating activities were vitally important in the sustenance of their families. Urban refugee women should receive more information about their entitlements for support.They must be advised about their rights and the life in refugee camps and settlements.
Refugees -- Lusaka , Women -- Refugees -- Lusaka