Panel 17

Gender socialization in rural South Africa

Panel organiser: Dipane Hlalele, University of the Free State, South Africa

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The last century saw changes in gender due to globalization. Whilst urban communities are deemed to be more amenable to change, rural communities seem to either be slow or resistant to change. This panel reports on various aspects of gender socialization in rural parts of South Africa in the era of globalization. Right from birth, boys and girls are treated differently by the members of their own environment, and learn the differences between boys and girls, women and men. Parental and societal expectations from boys and girls, their selection of gender-specific toys, and/or giving gender based assignments at home, school or in the community, seem to imbue differentiating socialization processes. Through a critical  intellectual enterprises  approach, which states that human beings continuously scrutinise the world around  them, we tap  into contemporary  gender socialisation process in rural South Africa. Changing expectations of men and women in society impact their education, identity, opportunities in the labour market and also draw from their socialisation in the early years. Observable, persistent and dynamic gender differences in behaviour and attainment are well documented around the world. In some cases, these differences are attributable to constructions of either nature or nurture, or a combination of both. These combinations further lead to complex behaviours.

This panel also reflects on attempts at addressing gender inequality, discrimination and empowerment. For example, equality in the labour market, educational opportunities, deconstructing gender roles, women representation in leadership and governance are continuously scrutinised to favour women and girls. We argue that due to the fact that socialisation as well as its agents (parents, teachers, and the communities) was used as a vehicle entrenching existing gender postures, the same socialisation will be most appropriate vehicle for de-learning, un-learning and re-learning a new gender code of human existence in rural South African communities.

Approved abstracts Panel 17

1. Gender and education in rural South Africa

Author: Dipane Hlalele (University of the Free State, South Africa)

Rurality as a function of human existence continues to be associated with strongly entrenched codes of behavioural expectations. Drawing from social learning theory, this paper presents an account of gender and education in rural South Africa. Whilst the degree of conformity and adherence to socially constructed, internalized and perceived expectations is as diverse as humanity can be, there are describable patterns. Research shows that in many rural schools boys and girls are assigned different roles in schools and are also encouraged to follow certain career paths. Conditions also favour them as they stay in school longer than girls. The glaring implication is that they would have a better shot at life. Women and girls constitute two-thirds of the world’s poor and women account for two-thirds of the world’s 792 million illiterate adults. Despite progress towards gender parity in education 35 million girls of primary school age and 37 million girls of lower secondary school age are out of school. This paper further teases out the use of socialisation in so far as it assists in the deconstructions of socially crafted gender roles and their impact on education in rural South Africa.

2. Gender socialization in the early years

Author: Mahudi Mofokeng, University of the Free State, South Africa

Unicef (2007), Asserts that it is generally accepted that early gender socialization is one of the most pertinent issues in early childhood, affecting both boys and girls. The research indicates that the foundations for stereotypes in gender roles are laid through early gender socialization, furthermore early gender socialization starts at birth and is a process of learning cultural roles according to one’s sex (Unicef 2007). Gender socialization is the process by which people learn to behave in a certain way, as dictated by societal beliefs, values, attitudes and examples. In Cairo (2006-Unicef) they called on governments and others committed to universal education and gender equality to remember that the earliest years are the most critical for children’s development. Unicef (2007) agues that if many of the Millennium Development Goals are to be reached, the children’s agency warned that the cycle of negative gender stereotypes must be broken earlier in a child’s life rather than later. The study reveals that the earliest years are the most critical for children’s development. Therefore it is imperative to investigate this phenomenon in the early years setting. This article seeks to understand that is it that important to have gender socialization in early years. It is evident that primary schools are the important sites where feminists and masculinities are produced. Gender socialization in early years plays a pivotal role in this research because everything revolves around cultural roles according to one’s societal beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors as appropriate for males and females within a culture. This study will be guided by qualitative approach.

3. Gender and commerce in rural South Africa

Author: Habasisa Molise (University of the Free State, South Africa)

This paper provides a reflective discussion on gender inequality for commerce in rural South Africa. Gender inequality is a multifaceted phenomenon that, beside education, requires consideration of its economic and political dimensions. UNESCO is adamant on the goal of “eliminating gender disparities in commerce by 2015, with a focus on ensuring woman’s full and equal access to and achievement in commercial fraternity”. The presenter departs from the view that gender equality is partly or not achieved through commerce in rural South Africa. Often, even when women are involved in income producing activities outside the home, their work remains invisible due to their low status. For instance, in the agricultural field, much of the work women do is pre and post-production, such as weeding, livestock rearing, and processing; and because economic value is placed on the actual output, the work is not seen as important. The reversal of gender gap adversities, to the advantage of women as proposed in this paper is a revolution which will gradually transform women’s lives for commerce in rural South Africa. To understand the drivers of this change is important to understand the implication of gender and how it affects commerce. The presenter explores to different degrees, four gender characteristics of livelihoods: the longstanding gender segregation and segmentation of livelihood activities, the disproportionate burden of reproductive activities or care work on women, gender inequalities in the control of land and labour, and the role of economic and social policies and institutions such as markets and households in sustaining gender inequalities in commerce livelihoods. Therefore, gender and development theory is considered to be relevant theoretical lens in constructing how gender misfortunes continue to perpetuate these injustices in rural South Africa.

4. Gender and Identity

Author: Cias Tsotetsi (University of the Free State, South Africa)

This paper argues for the adoption of Botho as one of the theoretical lenses that can narrow the theoretical constructed gap in gender. Botho emphasis the interconnectedness of both privileged and less privileged among human beings. Botho recognizes a respectful interaction amongst human beings. On the other hand, for communities in rural areas, being either a male or a female plays a role in identity formation. An identity refers to either a social category, defined by members rules and characteristic attributes or socially distinguishing features that a person takes pride in or views as unchangeable but socially consequential (or both at once). There are at least two categories to which one can belong, i.e. a dominant or a subordinate group. Researchers speak volumes in how females in rural ecologies are relegated to the margins. Being in the margins they form part of a subordinate group. On the other hand being a male gives, a number of privileges which are not enjoyed by the opposite. Females are being “othered” as they do not belong to the dominant group. The paper explores the inequality which results in the accepted, normalization of identity of the dominant and subordinate groups in rural areas in South Africa. The paper further examines how teachers, in various interaction with school-going learners, treat males and females. In addition, the paper demonstrates the subordinate status linked to being a female. Flowing from the above exploration a lace is constructed which links Botho and identity. The paper concludes by illustrating its contribution to both theory and practice.

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