African Communities in New Zealand: An Investigation of Their Employment Experiences and the Impact on Their Well-being Using African Oral Tradition of Storytelling as Research Methodology
This qualitative study seeks to investigate and identify the key employment-related experiences and challenges faced by New Zealand-based African communities and the impact of these experiences on their well-being. The African oral tradition of storytelling was used (as a methodology) to critically examine the meanings, feelings and experiences of these communities (Olupona, 1990; Tuwe, 2016). The use of African storytelling enabled African community groups and individual participants to share their “lived” experiences regarding the employment-related experiences and challenges within New Zealand. The main research question was: What are the main employment challenges faced by African communities in New Zealand? The Labour Disadvantage Theory (LDT) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) were used as theoretical frameworks. LDT theory states that most minority groups are disadvantaged and excluded from the labour market and sometimes coerced (by the system) into starting small businesses (Li, 1997). Some individuals end up on state benefits because of not getting employment (Li, 1997). CRT is widely used to examine issues of racism and discrimination (Bell, 1985; E. Taylor, Gillborn, & Ladson-Billings, 2009). In the context of my study, CRT was utilised to investigate racism in employment regarding Africans in New Zealand. These two theories will be used to explore the employment experiences and challenges faced by African communities in New Zealand. In-depth discussions using face-to-face interviews with 20 individual participants and storytelling in the African tradition with four community groups provided the data to critically examine these employment experiences. For the purposes of this study, I will refer to community groups as communities. One of the unique features of this study is the concept of communities in storytelling. This thesis uses African storytelling as the research methodology (Achebe, 1959; Olupona, 1990) and the approach of using communities was more than the focus group concept. Community voices expressed common experiences, worldviews, thoughts and feelings of the African communities regarding employment issues. According to McMillan and Chavis (1986), the characteristics of a community include place or locality, interest and communion. In the context of this study, place refers to New Zealand. Common interest concerns employment experiences. Communion refers to ‘spirit of community’, and ‘sense of belonging’ (Ife, 1995) which is enshrined in the African concept of Ubuntu. Ubuntu means ‘I am what I am because of you’ (Mandela, 1994.p.10). The original contribution to the body of knowledge of my study is in three specific areas namely; the utilisation of the African oral tradition of storytelling as a methodology, the concept of communities in storytelling or the use of community group discussions (referred to as communities) as opposed to contemporary focus groups and the application of the African philosophy of Ubuntu. The African storytelling provided African communities in New Zealand an opportunity to share their employment experiences using lenses and worldviews they are familiar with (Olupona, 1990). The use of community group discussions offered members of the New Zealand-based African communities a platform to learn, discuss, debate and challenge each other on employment matters. The Ubuntu philosophy helped African community members to maintain respect and dignity for each other as they discussed their employment experiences, even if they did not agree (Mandela, 1994; Nussbaum, 2003). The Ubuntu philosophy also strengthened and complemented the use of communities in the African storytelling process. The results showed that African communities in New Zealand are experiencing employment challenges such as racism and discrimination, English language proficiency and non-recognition of their overseas qualifications. The study concluded that for African communities to settle and contribute meaningfully to the productivity of New Zealand these challenges need to be addressed urgently. This will require a coordinated approach by key stakeholders, including the government, African communities, employers and service providers. The stories of African communities showed determination, resilience, community networks and strategies to survive under challenging employment conditions such as under-employment and lack of promotion opportunities. The storytelling set-up depicted the olden days’ communal gatherings where people sat around a fire listening to stories from their elders. It is hoped that this research process would empower the African communities and make their voice heard.