Deciding to migrate: Stories of African immigrant women living in New Zealand


  • Adesayo Adelowo Manukau Institute of Technology
  • Liz Smythe Auckland University of Technology
  • Camille Nakhid Auckland University of Technology



migration, narrative methods, African people, women, cultural competence


INTRODUCTION: With migratory movements of people increasing worldwide cultural competence is becoming a key social work capability. One aspect of cultural competence includes an appreciative understanding of new migrants reasons for migration. The immigration of black African people to New Zealand is a relatively recent phenomenon because, historically, immigration policy favoured people of British origin. This article aims to explore the experiences and motivations of black African women who were recent migrants to New Zealand.

METHOD: The study used a purposive sample of 15 black African women migrants aged between 21 and 60 years. The women were all recent migrants from Africa having resided in New Zealand for a period of between one and five years. Data was collected using semistructured interviews and a narrative methodology based on Africentric philosophy.

FINDINGS: For most of the women in the study migration was a positive choice made in order to secure educational and career opportunities for themselves and their children. For some there were also push factors in the form of political and economic instability in their countries of origin. Relationships with family and friends already living in New Zealand were also significant motivational factors.

CONCLUSION: Social workers in New Zealand need an appreciative understanding of the culture and history of new migrants, but also of their aspirations and motivations for setting out on an epic journey for them and their families. This article offers insights into the motivations and aspirations of a group of recent black African women migrants, and challenges some common assumptions.


Acholonu, C. (1995). Motherism: the Afrocentric alternative to feminism. Owerri, Nigeria: Afa Publications.

Amadiume, I. (2005). Women and development in Africa. Retrieved from

Bhugra, D. (2003). Migration and depression. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 108 (Suppl. 418), 67-72.

Fletcher, M. (1999). Migrant settlement: A review of the literature and its relevance to New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Labour. Retrieved from

Henderson, A. (2004). The Settlement experiences of immigrants (excluding refugees) in New Zealand: An overview paper completed for the Auckland Regional Settlement Strategy. Retrieved from

Ho, E.S., Lidgard, J.M., Cowling, W.E., & Bedford, R.D. (2003). Knowledge for new settlers: A survey of needs in Hamilton. Hamilton, New Zealand: Migration Research Group and Anthropology Department, University of Waikato. Retrieved from

House-Midamba, B., & Ekechi, F. K. (1995). African market women and economic power: The role of women in African economic development. Connecticut, London: Greenwood Press.

Kunene, D. P. (1991). Journey in the African epic. Research in African Literatures, 22(2), 205-223.

Maloba, W. (2007). African women in revolution. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

Mbiti, J. (1969). African religions and philosophy. London, United Kingdom: Heineman.

Mnyandu, M. (1997). Ubuntu as the basis of authentic humanity: An African perspective. Journal of Constructive Theology, 3(1), 77-91.

Nayar, S. (2005). Two becoming one: Immigrant Indian women sustaining self and well-being through doing. Masters Thesis, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland.

Ngo, H. (1994). The economic role of immigrant wives in Hong Kong. International Migration, 32(3), 403-423.

Phillips, J. (2007, 9 January). History of immigration. Retrieved from

Reynolds, R. (2006). Professional Nigerian women, household economy, and migration decisions. International Migration, 44(5), 167-188.

Statistics New Zealand. (2006). The 2006 New Zealand Census. Retrieved from

Statistics New Zealand. (2013).The 2013 New Zealand Census. Retrieved from

Strobel, M. (1982). African women. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 8(1), 109-131.

Sudarkasa, N., &. (1996). The strength of our mothers: African and African American women and families: essays and speeches. Trenton, New Jersey: African World Press.

Schmidt, E. (1992). Peasants, traders, and wives: Shona women in the history of Zimbabwe, 1870-1939. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Schiele, J. (2000). Human services and the Afrocentric paradigm. New York, USA: Haworth Press.

Terborg-penn, T., & Rushing, A. B. (1996). African feminsim: A theoretical approach to the history of women in the African Diaspora. Washington D.C: Howard University press.

Triln, A.D. (1992). Change and continuity: New Zealand’s immigration policy in the late 1980s. In A.D. Trlin & P. Spoonley (Eds.), New Zealand and international migration: A digest and bibliography, No. 2. Palmerston North, New Zealand: Massey University.

Tuwe, K. (2012). The challenges of health promotion within African communities in New Zealand. Master of Philosophy Thesis, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland.




How to Cite

Adelowo, A., Smythe, L., & Nakhid, C. (2016). Deciding to migrate: Stories of African immigrant women living in New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(1), 52–59.



Original Articles