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Southern Africa: gender and migration

Migration A–Z


  1. Belinda Dodson

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm506

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Dodson, B. 2013. Southern Africa: gender and migration. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Patterns and processes of migration in Southern Africa, including their gendering, must be understood in historical context. From the 17th to the 19th century, colonization by the Dutch, British, Germans, and Portuguese brought white settlement to the region, together with the penetration of capitalist agrarian, mining, and manufacturing economies. Imposed upon pre-industrial African societies, these created new forms and sites of labor demand at the same time as they alienated Africans from the land and resources that had been the basis of their livelihoods. This caused enormous social disruption, including radical changes in family and gender relations and in gender divisions of labor. Across the region, colonialism also brought the establishment of separate countries with fixed national borders, inherited by the region's present-day states on their independence. The colonial economic, social, and political order meant the creation of cities, along with measures to control population movements both within and between countries. Together, these forces have shaped the political, economic, and social geography of Southern Africa, not least in terms of patterns and trends of human mobility – and indeed immobility. Who moved where, with whom, and under what conditions was determined not only by labor supply and demand, or related livelihood strategies under a new mode of production, but also by systems of social and legal control that operated along both race and gender lines.


  • regional development;
  • gender;
  • women;
  • race;
  • labor supply