“It’s Hard Being a Mother, a Worker and a Wife!”: Researching Women’s Work/Life Negotiations in Zimbabwe

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This paper presents the results of a study which explored how women in Zimbabwe negotiate between paid work and familial roles. Women’s paid work and family linkages remain a neglected subject of research in the Zimbabwean context, because it is widely accepted that the nexus (re)presents neither conflict nor a contradiction. The analyses in this paper will affirm the complex nature of the work and family interface for women in Zimbabwe, and in so doing, not only challenge the common (mis)conception that paid work and family linkages are unproblematic for them but also illustrate the relevance of such research. The paper reports in particular, the work/life experiences of women who engage in informal sector trade to supplement income from formal sector paid work (what I have termed multiple economic activities for survival [MEAS]), to illustrate that the difficult socio-economic situation in a failing economy in Zimbabwe introduces new challenges for working mothers that impact on their work/life realities. By demonstrating that women in Zimbabwe negotiate the boundaries between paid work and family in ways that are challenging and difficult, the paper concludes that work and family linkages are as much an issue for women in Zimbabwe as they are for women in the west where significant research into women’s work/family linkages has been undertaken; what differs is the ‘magnitude of burden’.


Keywords: Work/Life Linkages, Work and Family, Work/Family Negotiations, Zimbabwean Women, Informal Sector, Motherhood
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: “It’s Hard Being a Mother, a Worker and a Wife!”


Dr. Virginia Mapedzahama

Lecturer, School of International Studies, University of South Australia
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Virginia Mapedzahama has just completed her doctoral dissertation which was cross-cultural comparative analysis of women’s work/life negotiations in Adelaide and in Harare. Her research interests are in women and work, family research, African feminisms and post-colonial feminisms. She is currently a lecturer in sociology at the School of International Studies, University of South Australia.

Ref: I08P0827