Women’s Experiences of Street trading and Well-being in Cape Town

Sharyn Ruth Sassen, Roshan Galvaan, Madeleine Duncan



Street trading forms a large subsection of South Africa’s informal economic activity,

creating opportunity for sustaining livelihoods. Yet, street traders face various barriers that threatening their well-being. From an occupational perspective, little is known about how these occupations are experienced and their implications for well-being. This article will inform contextually relevant conceptions of the informal work occupation of street trade, providing necessary knowledge for critical and social practice of occupational therapy.


The ethnographic study sought to describe women street traders’ experiences of street trading and its impact on their well-being. The objectives were to identify personal and external factors that promoted or hindered their well-being whilst engaged in street trading. Semi-structured and photo elicitation interviews and participant observations were carried out with four women street traders, identified through purposive recruitment. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed for inductive and thematic cross case analysis.


One theme and three categories emerged in the findings. The theme, ‘Togetherness: steering against the current towards a better life”, revealed the impact of interpersonal connectedness as participants attempted to steer towards valued lives through occupational engagement in street trading, despite various barriers.


The study revealed the realities of nuanced and fluid wellbeing experiences through street trading, where well-being was deeply tied to valued social connectedness and collective well-being.

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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