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Livelihoods, Lifestyle Choices and the Construction of Young Women’s Realities in Ngangelizwe Township, Mthatha

Black women in South African continue to experience gender inequality that manifests through gender-based violence, underrepresentation of women in leadership positions at work as well as being subject to gender roles that leave them struggling to maintain a work-life balance. Hence this study aimed at examining the complex realities of women in Ngangelizwe Township, Mthatha, uncovering their agencies and how women draw from their agencies meet their aspirations. Additionally, the study intended to offer a theoretical explanation of the young women’s realities in the area of study. The researcher engaged in an ethnographic study in which 15 young women in Ngangelizwe Township, Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape were scientifically observed and interviewed. The examination thereof led to the recognition of Ngangelizwe Township young women’s agencies as embedded within experiences of vulnerability that is informed by the structuring of their social space. The finding led to the conclusion that the agencies of young women in Ngangelizwe Township, Mthatha should be conceptualised as intertwined within experiences of instrumentality and susceptibility rather than recognised as free from the experiences of susceptibility. The outcomes of the study revealed that, despite the multiple forms of oppression, the black women in the townships continue to pursue their goals with some attaining their lifestyle aspirations. By uncovering the mechanisms and strategies employed by the women in the study, the young women’s agencies were unearthed including the vulnerabilities that the women were exposed to when negotiating the agencies. Subsequently, the analysis resulted in the conceptualisation of an intersectional township habitus through which the dynamic realities of township women can be further explored. Based on the findings, the study identified a need for more research that would employ the intersectional township habitus lens to examine the lived experiences of young women in South African townships. The study further identified a need for more research into the economic strategies of women who access money through criminal activities, which was identified as one of the agencies that young women in Ngangelizwe Township employed when negotiating their realities.


Keywords: agency, vulnerabilities, intersectional township habitus.

Full Name
Dr Sinethemba Siyakholwa Sidloyi.