Accepted paper:

Women making a living on and off the road in Tunis, Abuja and Cape Town


Gina Porter (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects on the gendered employment practices that characterise road transport operations across Africa. It references rare examples of women daring to disrupt this masculinist enterprise and presents ongoing research with women in three cities (Tunis, Abuja, Cape Town).

Paper long abstract:

The strong link between male identity and motor-mobility in Africa is ubiquitous and rarely questioned by transport sector actors. This paper reflects on the gendered employment practices that to date have characterised road transport operations across sub-Saharan Africa and considers the potential for significant disruption. Women have been largely absent from the road story. Constrained by hegemonic norms of femininity that shape women's self-understandings and help relegate them to peripheral interstices, women merely service the foot soldiers in the transport sector as sex workers, suppliers of cooked food, or porters. But occasionally women are daring to disrupt this masculinist enterprise. Examples are women recruited as drivers in the South African trucking industry (despite expressed concerns about their potential to upset the 'workplace dynamic'), and Uber women operators providing female-only services in Nairobi. Mobile phone technology appears to play a significant role in these incursions as women navigate the security constraints that, hitherto, have often militated against them taking an active role as transport operators. The paper reflects on ongoing research with women in three African cities (Abuja, Tunis, Cape Town) about the constraints and opportunities that shape their potential for a more satisfactory life on the road.

panel Anth21
Making a living on & off the road - trucking and the politics of movement and stoppage in Africa