Methodological Reflection on the Co-Construction of Meaning within the South African Domestic Worker Sector: Challenging the Notion of “Voicelessness”

Christel Marais, Christo de W. Van Wyk


Globally the domestic worker sector is characterised by a sense of “voicelessness”. Given the centrality of participant engagement within the interpretivist paradigm, accessing those with firsthand knowledge of the phenomena under investigation proved challenging. This is attributed to the institutionalised nature of the sector and the initial outsider status of the researchers. This article presents a transparent account of the methodological considerations that guided the co-construction of meaning within this context. Two thousand leaflets were distributed. By describing the intended study, inviting participation and providing assurances of confidentiality an initial rapport was established. Purposive, respondent-driven self-sampling resulted in 20 female participants employed as domestic workers. The pilot study indicated the value of using metaphors while exploring tentative topics. An interview guide facilitated the exploration of key concepts during our engagement. In-depth interviews were transcribed and analysed through an inductive process of data reduction. Rich, dense descriptive verbatim accounts of participants’ lived realities confirmed data saturation. Emerging themes confirmed that the South African domestic worker sector is far from being voiceless if we are willing to listen. Making these voices heard constitutes a vital step in future efforts to empower this neglected sector of the labour market.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n20p726

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This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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