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South African Journal of Occupational Therapy

On-line version ISSN 2310-3833
Print version ISSN 0038-2337


SASSEN, Sharyn; GALVAAN, Roshan  and  DUNCAN, Madeleine. Women's experiences of informal street trading and well-being in Cape Town, South Africa. S. Afr. j. occup. ther. [online]. 2018, vol.48, n.1, pp.28-33. ISSN 2310-3833.

BACKGROUND: Street trading is one of the largest sub-categories in South Africa's booming informal economy. RESEARCH PROBLEM: The scarcity of occupational science/therapy literature around informal economy occupations limits the profession from understanding their implications for well-being and development. RESEARCH PURPOSE: Contextually relevant conceptions of survivalist occupations such as street trade will inform occupational therapy practice for social change and development. RESEARCH AIM AND OBJECTIVES: The study aimed to describe women street traders' experiences of street trading and well-being. The objectives were to identify the positive and negative well-being outcomes of engagement in street trading and to identify the social, economic and political factors that influence the well-being of women street traders. RESEARCH DESIGN: An ethnographic inquiry was carried out with four women survivalist street traders identified through purposive sampling. RESEARCH METHODS: Participant observation and in-depth one-on-one ethnographic and photo elicitation interviews were carried out with each participant. DATA ANALYSIS: Audio recordings were transcribed for inductive and thematic cross case analysis. FINDINGS: The qualitative essence of street traders' experiences of navigating a livelihood in the fluid and unstable context of the informal economy was captured in one theme, 'Togetherness: steering against the current towards a better life'. The theme comprised three categories: 'Taking the helm', 'Facing tough conditions' and 'We're in the same boat'. DISCUSSION: Street trading is a valued means for taking action towards economic survival and well-being. The contextually situated nature of this occupation translated to both adverse and advantageous experiences, resulting in a nuanced sense of well-being as thriving while surviving. CONCLUSION: Women's well-being as street traders is primarily determined by the quality of their collective camaraderie, social connectedness and personal drive.

Keywords : Street trading; informal economy occupations; well-being; occupational injustice; social connectedness.

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