Award Information

Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2017
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town
“Asihlali phantsi!” A study of agency among isi-Xhosa-speaking women traders in a Cape Town Township.

Development literature of the south abound with evidence pointing to women's structurally imposed and disproportionate levels of poverty while neglecting their demonstrations of transformative agency. Using agency as an analytical tool, I investigate how women traders in Langa Township, Cape Town exercise agency in responding to structural constraints and opportunities that affect their businesses. The study is located in and contributes to debates in development studies and sociology on structure and agency. Adopting a qualitative case study on 25 purposively selected participants I used participant observation and in-depth interviews. Giddens's Structuration Theory on the role of agency in the context of structures informed the study. Also Amartya Sen's Capabilities Approach enhanced the theoretical framework on women's empowerment. Data analysis followed Miles and Huberman approach using inductive coding and thematic analysis. Documentation of analytical procedures in an audit trail and applying rigour to data analysis ensured reliability of data.