Fatiema Benjamin, MA, is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Children, Families and Society at the University of the Western Cape. Her research interests include early childhood development, mental health in children, socio-emotional development, parenting, and social issues such as exploitation and human trafficking. She has published locally and internationally.

Rachel Chinyakata, PhD, is the Head of Research at Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa (SIHMA) working on human mobility, migration policies, migration and health, gender, migration and climate and vulnerable minors research. She is passionate about conducting research that contributes knowledge development, informed policies and programmes and promotes the rights and well-being of individuals and vulnerable groups.

Edna Grace Rich, PhD, is an associate professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies on Children, Families and Society at the University of the Western Cape. Her areas of research interest are: Parenting research; Early Childhood Development; Family well-being; and areas of risks such as Substance abuse, and Human trafficking. She has published/co-published both locally and internationally.

Erica Koegler is an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, School of Social Work. Her research examines human trafficking in the American Midwest and South Africa. Her PhD is in Public Health and her master’s in social work.

Nicolette Vanessa Roman, PhD, is a Senior Professor, South African Research Chair (SARChI) in the study of families, the P.I. in ECD, founding member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Children, Families and Society, at the University of the Western Cape and Visiting Professor at Huddersfield University (U.K.). Her research focuses on family life, strengthening families across the lifespan towards family and social cohesion.


The exploitation of people in the environments in which they live and work continues to be a challenge globally despite efforts by stakeholders at national and international levels to bring this to a halt. Exploitation has both short-term and long-term impacts on the lives of the survivors. Attention should be given to preventing new incidents and addressing ongoing exploitation. However, there is a lack of research that focuses on the subjective experiences of different forms of exploitation within the Western Cape, South Africa. Therefore, this paper explores individuals’ experiences of being exploited, focusing on the types of exploitative situations participants are exposed to. This study sample consists of 417 adults residing in Cape Town and surrounding areas, of which 84% were South African, and 16% were from other African countries. Data were collected using a structured survey with additional semi-structured interview questions. This report used only responses to specific semi-structured questions, which were analysed through thematic analysis. The findings reveal that study participants often experience situations that leave them vulnerable to multiple forms of exploitation. This includes experiences of abuse and economic vulnerability; specifically, participants reported working in abusive environments and their economic vulnerabilities being exploited. It was also found that the type of employment could create vulnerability, which left participants at an increased risk for exploitation. Considering this, the study calls for the collaboration of different stakeholders, including but not limited to the families, community, leaders, scholars, and governmental and non-governmental sectors, in developing and prioritising strategies to prevent exploitation. This is essential in protecting and safeguarding the rights of individuals and building a just South Africa where everyone can thrive free from exploitation by others.

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