A reflection on Class and Gender from a traditional / ethnic background by:
Gender: I grew up surrounded by powerful women: Three older sisters who decided what I would wear and which games we would play. A mother and two aunties, who held positions of power as teachers. My dad was a passive person and therefore was ruled by the women in our household. So at my young age, “Gender” was protection for my dad!
My first exposure to gender outside of my household was in the media, with the feminist movement. I then realized that my home was an exception and that globally, women were being treated as if they were inferior to men. But another realization came to me: In the western world, women were fighting for independence, whereas in traditional societies, women were (and are still) fighting for family unity. A priest once told me: The woman is the pillar of her household.
In the 70s in Mauritius, the feminist movement started with the boom in the economy. Suddenly, housewives went to work in mass in factories and this caused a significant change in the family dynamics in two ways:
• No longer were men the sole bread winners in the family; and
• Children were coming home from school without a parent being home.
With regards to Africa, a significant component of humanitarian aid has gone towards the empowerment of African women, like helping them to build income generating activities. However, no work has been done in parallel with the men. So men of traditional societies suddenly found themselves less educated than their wives, and becoming reliant on their wives for income support. This loss in status without any opportunity to express themselves, have caused some men to turn violent towards their wives.
More and more now, humanitarian agencies are making sure that all community members participate in the process of project to ensure that the men are not left “behind”.
Class: Growing up, it was clear that there was (and...
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