n Gender and Behaviour - Gender and dangers inherent in fieldwork

Volume 11, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1596-9231



Based on 2,400 face-to-face interviews conducted by contract field-staff in South Africa in 2008, this study looks at the way gender affects danger in fieldwork settings. Based on data collected by Afrobarometer in 2008, the research provides an indication of the level of the interviewers' feelings of being threatened as well as their receipt of physical threats. Interviewers collected information about respondent attitude toward the survey process and two additional questions asked whether the interviewer felt threatened or had received actual physical threats. The analysis revealed that interviewer social and demographic characteristics were not predictive of the reported feeling threatened and/or being physically threatened. The findings regarding receipt of physical threats were as expected; female interviewers were the recipients of 25 of 26 physical threats. Contrary to what was expected, about equal numbers of interviewers who had interviewed women had received physical threats. Two other questions asked whether respondents received help from others to answer the questions and whether the interviewer had been approached by community or party representatives. Those two questions, and a respondent attitude scale, emerged as the primary predictors of the receipt of physical threats by these interviewers. These findings pointed to the need for increased safety planning and training, especially for field supervisors. The conclusions of the study are that safety planning should be introduced into interviewer and supervisor training, and should also include planning that attempts to pave the way for interviewers to enter fieldwork sites. This would begin with prior contact with significant community gatekeepers, providing them with a clear understanding of the objectives and logistics of surveys to be conducted in their communities.

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