The adjustment of African women living in New Zealand: a narrative study

Adelowo, Adesayo
Smythe, Liz
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Doctor of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

Migration has been a recurrent phenomenon since the beginning of human existence and involves a major life transition. In recent times, migration has been identified as a major factor for facilitating economic growth, counteracting the adverse effect of an ageing population and increasing contribution to the development of enterprise and innovations, as well as strengthening New Zealand’s international links.

Immigration of Black Africans in New Zealand is recent because the immigration policy favoured people of British origin. However, the 1970s witnessed the influx of Africans as a result of the adoption of a formal refugee quota in 1987 and as a result of outbreak of wars and genocide in countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and Rwanda. Black Africans are also migrating to New Zealand for educational purposes and as skilled migrants. Alongside identifying the potential gains of immigration, the need for reducing distress and ill health in individual immigrants has been recognized. It is important to explore the factors impacting immigrants’ well-being and adjustment to New Zealand.

This research uses a narrative method based on Africentric philosophy and a unique storytelling tradition that reflects the beliefs, values and ritual of African people to understand the experience of the African immigrant women as it relates to their psychological adjustment to New Zealand.

Arising questions for the study are factors that motivate African women to migrate to New Zealand, major stressors that African women encounter upon arriving in New Zealand, the impact of these stressors on their person and the coping strategies they employ to handle the particular demands of adjusting to a new environment.

The research found that the main purpose for African women, to migrate to New Zealand was career development which could be realized through educational achievement. While the most significant stressor spoken about by the women was missing home and the losses associated with it. The most significant coping strategy the women used is communalism. Although the paths the African women immigrants travelled comprise of conflict, trauma, and emotion. This research is concerned with the triumph, and extraordinary personal achievement of African women participants revealed in their narratives that this research is concerned with.

By giving African women immigrants a voice to tell their stories about their experiences of migration to New Zealand and understanding the meaning they make of them, it is possible to better understand the nature of the support that is helpful for them. It is hoped that this research will help to encourage Government and other agencies to provide resources to facilitate African women immigrants and their families’ adjustment into New Zealand culture. This thesis also contributes to a body of knowledge on a cultural and ethnic group that has often been neglected by researchers. Further, it offers opportunity for New Zealanders to increase their understanding of cultural differences, helping to promote an acceptance of a multi-cultural society in New Zealand.

The significance of this study is that through discerning how stories are constructed, understanding of how African women immigrants perceive their experience has been revealed. Their stories reflect strength, resilience, resourcefulness, and the community networks used in achieving their goals of migration. That they have coped with immigration issues and challenges shows they are true heroines. It is believed that this research process has been an empowering one for the women involved.

African women , Adjustment , Narrative methodology , Counselling , Migrants
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