Image courtesy of Kudzai Chatiza
With the second field season well underway for Migrants on the margins, the Society’s collaborative field research programme, we focus on the work of PhD student, Selina Pasirayi.
Migrants on the margins is taking a comparative approach in four of the world’s most pressured cities – Harare, Hargeisa, Colombo and Dhaka – to investigate the movements of residents and the impacts of these on marginal communities. Last year, more than 2,000 household surveys were completed across the four cities and these have revealed a common experience of complex and disrupted mobility histories.
In Harare, Selina has been investigating how the political context in Zimbabwe impacts active urban citizenship, and the role residents’ associations have in supporting migrants and helping them access local services. Now based at the University of Sussex, Selina has 10 years’ experience working in the NGO sector, including for Action Aid, Red Cross and CARE International. Her professional expertise, as well as her knowledge of the language, culture and socio-economic context are proving to be of great value to the project.
Selina explained: “I have taken a case study approach to my fieldwork, using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. I have also taken part in public meetings and petitions to assess the practices of different residents’ associations and the actions of residents. I have been particularly attentive to the rules, rituals, hierarchies and power dynamics within the residents’ movement.”
One of Selina’s aims is to understand the potential urban activism has for changing local governance and her research has already begun to highlight the positive changes that residents’ associations can achieve for people living in marginal communities. These include: articulating citizens’ rights, creating a space for civic engagement and lobbying for local services.
Selina recently presented her initial results at the African Centre for Cities Conference, along with other members of the Harare research team including her supervisor Professor JoAnn McGregor, and Dr Kudzai Chatiza. She will return to Zimbabwe later in the year to conduct further stakeholder meetings to discuss her findings. Where appropriate, she will also be offering suggestions on how residents’ associations can continue to have positive engagements with the communities and residents they work with, particularly those living on the margins.