A Stellenbosch University Master’s graduate, Imanuella Muller, has published a research thesis on how gangs in the Western Cape recruit and initiate young girls and women..

Her research found that gangs function in poor communities where they are able to recruit young girls by buying them cell phones and giving them pocket money.


“With this research, participants spoke about the fact that women are involved in the core gang activities. They are selling drugs for gangs, and even using high school girls and primary school girls to sell drugs at school for them,” said Muller when speaking to Cape Talk radio.

She said that gangs tend to recruit girls and women from poor homes and difficult family situations. They exploit the girls’ vulnerabilities to lure them in.

Once recruited, the girls are forced to participate in robberies and in break-ins with fellow male members. They are also used to hide drugs, weapons, and other contraband.

“They are actually contributing to the financial resources and they are also bringing in income for gangs,” she said.

READ: This inside look at Cape Town’s Mongrels gang is absolutely horrifying


The research found that passive recruitment methods are used to recruit young girls and women into gangs; the most common being a romantic connection between young girls and women with a male member and the lure of drugs and alcohol

Gangs can offer a social space for meeting the emotional needs of its members, while also providing a sense of identity, connection, and a sense of belonging.

The findings of her research indicate that choosing to exit can be a complicated process, but it is not impossible.

Generally, the more involved one becomes in gang activities, the more difficult it becomes to exit.

Research participants shared that their main motivation for choosing to leave was a desire for a healthier life.

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