Gender and housing: The case of domestic service in Lusaka, Zambia

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6 Scopus citations


Lusaka is a city originally designed and built for European residents, to meet European needs and comforts. In the colonial period the African residents were either domestic servants living within European households’ compounds or were other contracted wage-labourers who were confined to the areas of south-western Lusaka specifically allocated to them. Europeans preferred male domestic help; women and children living at close quarters were thought to be potentially disruptive and were therefore discouraged from moving into the towns. A gender division between town and country was created; so too were cultural assumptions about gender, housing and employment, assumptions still widely held today. Pressure to find waged employment in Zambia has increased, and as a result the population of Lusaka is growing rapidly and shelter is in increasingly short supply. The article argues that domestic employment is still the largest single segment of the urban wage-labouring population. The historically constructed cultural assumptions about gender and housing have led to differential access to housing for men and women. Now that more and more women are seeking waged employment, the article uses their relation to domestic employment as an instance through which to explore the wider position of women in Zambia, and to initiate, it is hoped, some gender awareness in Zambian housing policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-265
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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