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Of silent maids, skilled gardeners and careful madams: gendered dynamics and strategies of migrant domestic workers in Accra, Ghana


Recent studies indicate that many migrants are engaged mainly in the informal sector in low-paid, short-term, and insecure occupations in cities. Using a qualitative research approach, this paper examines the gendered experiences, livelihood strategies and wellbeing of migrants engaged in domestic work in Accra, Ghana. Employing structure-agency theoretical perspectives, the paper also discusses how migrant domestic workers employ their own agency to counter exploitation. The findings show clear gendered patterns of employment in domestic work, with men having stronger agency to negotiate better conditions of work and remuneration. The paper argues that despite the heterogeneity and diversity of the work conditions and experiences of domestic workers in Accra, the importance of gender as a crucial factor mediating the experiences of both male and female domestic workers and their impacts on their wellbeing must be recognised in policies to address and regulate domestic work in Ghana.

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  1. The data for this paper formed part of the research projects of the “Migrating Out of Poverty” Research programme Consortium Partner Group in Ghana.


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The research work for this paper was funded by UK aid from the UK government through the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.

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Correspondence to Mariama Awumbila.

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Awumbila, M., Teye, J.K. & Yaro, J.A. Of silent maids, skilled gardeners and careful madams: gendered dynamics and strategies of migrant domestic workers in Accra, Ghana. GeoJournal 82, 957–970 (2017).

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  • Migration
  • Domestic work
  • Livelihoods
  • Gender
  • Informal sector