Many people pursue a research topic because they identify a problem in their surroundings or elsewhere, but few have to physically live the realities of their studies every day.

Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) social scientist Dr Rujeko Samanthia Chidawanyika has recently completed her PhD, which focused on the gender inequalities that migrant women face as they integrate into South Africa.

Rujeko’s study highlighted some of the damaging societal ills and challenges these women encounter due to their migration status. These include domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, increased risk for HIV/Aids and minimum or even no access to important services such as healthcare, employment, social welfare – among others.

“As a migrant woman in South Africa, this area of research was very dear to me. I would see the extra effort and gender dynamics that women migrants experience for them to be recognised citizens in a foreign country. Various social categorisations such as race, class, citizenship and gender interplay in their lives and I wanted to highlight these. It’s an area that has been under-researched. Hopefully I will be able to inform policy and improve their lives through my research,” said Rujeko .

Rujeko, who graduated with her PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal on 11 September, says that she is grateful for her incredible support structure, especially her husband.

“My father also always said ‘take advantage of the opportunities you have’; that has been my inspiration,” she added.

Story by Phumla Ngcobo.