COVID-19 and its Effects on the Lives and Livelihoods of Congolese Female Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the City of Cape Town

  • Ngwi Nnam Thecla Mulu Rhodes University
Keywords: Resilience, Vulnerabilities, Refugees, Asylum seekers, Gender, Intersectionality


This paper explores the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives
and livelihoods of Congolese female asylum seekers and refugees living in Cape Town.
It is framed around the assumption that this group of women exist at the intersection of
multiple forms of vulnerability by virtue of their migrant status, gender, race, and social
class. The study adopted a qualitative approach to data collection and analysis. One-onone
in-depth interviews were conducted with seven female asylum seekers and refugees
from the Democratic Republic of Congo, using a semi-structured interview guide.
Drawing on a feminist intersectional framework, the findings revealed that containment
measures imposed by the South African government to curb the spread of COVID-19
significantly increased asylum-seeking and refugee women’s care roles in homes, while
rendering paid work more precarious. We argue that resilience strategies adopted by
these women during the pandemic varied, depending on their demographic and socioeconomic
status, educational level, nature of employment or entrepreneurial activity
and their residency status in South Africa. This article concludes that the COVID-19
pandemic has amplified existing inequalities experienced by female Congolese asylum
seekers and refugees and created new ones, with long-term implications for their lives
and livelihoods.