VARYING SUCCESS OF WOMEN ORGANIZATIONS ON GENDER EQUALITY IN SOUTH
WOMEN ORGANIZATIONS AND GENDER EQUALITY 11
VARYINGSUCCESS OF WOMEN ORGANIZATIONS ON GENDER EQUALITY IN SOUTH AFRICANAND INDIA
Womenin South Africa and India have been involved in the fight for theirrights, which has brought about social and political changes. Womenengaged in the struggle for equality have participated as workers,students, and community members among others. By and large, womenmovements focused on issues that impacted their lives such asoppression, sexual assault, and domestic violence, as well as, men’sattitude towards them (Suguna, 2009). For this reason, the strugglefor liberation from oppressive gender relations was carefullystrategized, whereby women activists and organizations mainstreamedtheir social and political ideas, and influenced women countrywide toparticipate. Nonetheless, their participation in national movementshas helped to raise consciousness of gender equality over the years.
Womenmovements have had a long history of success in India and SouthAfrica. However, there has been varying success in getting genderequality onto the nation-building agenda, as well as, increasedbarriers in eradicating gender inequalities. Blau et al. (2006)points out that the gender inequality we see today is a slice out ofa long history shifting into the current circumstances. Thus, evenwith laws and policies supporting women’s freedom and preventingwomen discrimination at home, in the workplace and in politics, it isevident that gender inequality continues to persist today. Accordingto Meade and Hanks (2008), cultural practices and perceptions,traditions, and religious beliefs have played a major role inencouraging inequality. Since old traditions and cultural practicecontinue to dominate, the situation hinders the success of totaleradication of gender inequality.
Womenmovement in India
Inthe 19th century, the rights and wrongs of women in India becamemajor issues. During this century, women’s own autonomousorganizations began to be formed, and within a couple of decades, aspecial category of women activism was constructed. According toAnagol (2010), women movement saw the expansion of autonomous womengroups that played a major role in empowering women and awakening anew consciousness about women’s problem. The All India Women’sConference is the oldest autonomous organization, which played asignificant role in mobilizing the middle-class women to fight fortheir rights (Ghosh, 2012). However, the organization has lost muchof its momentum currently, and several other organizations have beenformed to take up the women’s issues.
Womenmovement in India focused on overcoming traditional practices,beliefs and institutions since they were the source of oppression(Kumar, 1997). For this reason, the women movement condemnedtraditions and religious practices that encouraged women suffering,and they sought to redress in education and legal changes. Themovement also attended to issues on violence against women,institutional framework for the maintenance of gender differences,and the impact of the economic situation on the day-to-day lives ofwomen (Chopra et al, 2004). It was feminist in the sense thatleaders of the organizations forming this movement recognized womenas oppressed because of their sex. A significant step taken by thewomen movement in India was to break the silence, and expose variouscategories of humiliation, torture, atrocities, and assaults to whichwomen were subjected (Mitra, 2013). This meant breaking through theimage of the ideal Indian woman as self-sacrificing, devoted wife ondomestic work, and accommodating.
Inthe 19th century, the movement achieved massive impact by taking acrucial step in exposing gendered violence, which began to escalatetowards the end of the century. In order to address this issuecountrywide, a small group of women published journals in Hindi andEnglish that necessitated an attack on women issues such as violenceagainst women, sexual assaults and harassment, domestic violence, aswell as, social, political, and economic issues such as communism,and public health policy (Forbes, 2000). Campaign posters were usedas a form of communication to mobilize support, and confrontopposition, which made the movement receive considerable recognition.By the 20th century, gender equality was guaranteed by theconstitution of India, although the promise of equality was laterdenounced as a sham.
Despitethe increased autonomous organizations against inequality, cases ofgender discrimination and violence have continued to escalate inIndia. Certain incidences such as Mathura rape case in 1980s havegiven visibility to the persistence of gender violence and inequality(Leonard (2010). Women in India are exposed to violence even beforethey are born, and it has been established that violence laststhroughout their lifetimes. Girls have become subject to sexualabuse, while married women are not safe from violence inflicted uponthem by their husbands.
Rapehas not only issue challenging the women movement, but also theincreasing murder that came to be dubbed as ‘dowry death’ or‘bride burning’ (Ray, 2000). In dowry death, young married womenare burnt by in-laws, a phenomenon that emerged in the 1980s. Dowrydeaths consist of harassment of the newly wedded bride, which mayinclude physical harassment such as beating, making her do enormouswork, entertainment and movement restrictions among others. Inextreme cases, thousands of young wedded wives are driven to death bygreedy husbands and the murder tends to appear as though it was anaccident. On the other hand, the greedy husband remarries and gets anew gift of a dowry from the parent of his new bride (Kumbhare,2009). Eradicating this practice has been a challenge because dowrydeath is almost a traditional practice and has risen in therecent years.
Gender-inequalityis still an ever-present reality, particularly in the area ofeconomic participation. Indian traditions are based on the fact thewomen are to work within the house, and thus are not included in theworkforce participation. Until recently, women role in the economicactivities of the nation was practically ignored (Singhal, 1995).Even though the percentage of women gainfully employed in India hasincreased, studies show that it is lower than in many countries. Inaddition, wherever women are in employment, in India, they are mainlyin low earning sectors of the economy, which demands strenuous workand low skills. Furthermore, low female participation rate in thelabor workforce is due to inflexible working arrangement and lack ofthe appropriate means to allow women to return to the workforce afterleaving (OECD, 2013). For this reason, there is a considerable gapbetween male and female participation in both rural and urban areas.
Womenmovement in South Africa
Genderinequality is South African is compounded by the country’s historyof deep-rooted racial inequality (Spierenberg and Wels, 2006). Manywomen, including women activists in the country argue that theysuffered extreme discrimination under the system of apartheid.Apartheid was a system of interconnected economic, political andsocial structures that systematically oppressed the blacks andprivileged the white. In fact, the intersection between race andgender extends to the position and relationship between black andwhite people in general (Afshar, 1987). By and large, the white womenoccupied a higher social class position than the black women. Thequalification, to some degree, expressed itself through social andeconomic power relations. As a result, white women enjoyed manyprivileges due to their skin color, but black women wereunderrepresented in decision-making positions. Thus, skin color,class, and sex remained a crucial dividing principle in workplaces,employment and in the society.
Althoughthe country is said to have made great strides in eradicating genderinequality, there is much evidence that it continues to persist andobstruct South Africa’s efforts of building social cohesion.Historically, women of all races in South Africa were subjected topatriarchal laws that entrenched a subordinate status relative tomen. According to Albanese (2006) were generally viewed and definedas minors with few political and economic rights. As a matter offact, South African women were effectively relegated to second classcitizen as they were under the social and legal control of theirfathers or husbands. Furthermore, women were not given the rights tovote until 1930 (Groschl and Takagi, 2012).
Thevarious factors leading to the failure of black women achievingacademically include limited opportunities, gender discrimination,lack of appropriate role models and sexual harassment. These factorsprevent black women from reaching their highest potential. On theother hand, majority of women who reach higher levels of educationusually concentrate in the caring professionals such as social work,nursing, and teaching among others (Sylvia, 1997). In most cases,black women are few in scientific fields, and other well-payingprofessions such as medicine and law.
Manyadult women in South Africa are facing the challenge of adultilliteracy because they missed the opportunity to study in the past(Banerjee, 2012). For this reason, most mothers do not appreciate theright to education and, thus, it might not be realized. Furthermore,these women are drawn more and more into work. Most of them are househeads or breadwinner and may not see the need for education. In thisregard, it is important to involve adult women to participate intransforming education and provide training opportunities. Thesewomen require access to non-traditional skills and so that they canunderstand the importance of new technologies.  Institutionsshould encourage women to enter into fields that are perceived formen including engineering, medical law, and commerce among others(Waylen, 1996). The population’s statistic during the 2004elections indicated that the majority in South Africa is women. Forthis reason, the country should not afford to neglect the majoritygain.
Eventhough changing rapidly, gender equity is essentially nonexistent inSouth Africa. Many problems facing black women in South Africa areembedded in a complex mix of historical related colonialism, genderperception within the community, apartheid laws, andtraditional/cultural dynamics. The black woman is seen as one who isexperiencing triples burden, that is, the burden of being black,working class, and governed by civil and customary laws. Black womenare forced through circumstance to take up multiple domestic roles.Women and girls are primarily responsible for domestic tasks such ascooking, cleaning, childcare, and contributing to home maintenanceand repair (Anagol, 2008). Additionally, when babies born into thefamily, older girls are forced to take responsibility of theyoung sibling, and forced to leave school. Such practices alwaysplace the girl child at a disadvantage, and in most cases, robbingher of an education. Obviously, the girls in South Africa continue tobear the brunt of family poverty, which makes it evident that blackwomen are underrepresented educationally and politically.
Womenin South African have experienced preferential employmentopportunities at the expense of the black, colored and Indiancommunities (Yuval-Davis, 1997). Women movement and organizationshave faced a major challenge today in addressing this issue ofemployment equity in the workplace because it continues to persist.Even in situations where black women have higher education levelsthan men, and a higher likelihood of holding managerial andprofessional positions, men tend to earn higher than women. This haspointed to sex discrimination in remuneration.
Accordingto Sweetman (2002), HIV/AIDS in South Africa has been fuelled bygender inequality. This has resulted to an array of negative effectson female physical, mental and sexual health. Girls and older womenare the most vulnerable to HIV/AID infection since there continue toface sexual harassment increasingly and the consequent effects areexperienced in the socio-economic structure of society.
Inconclusion, Gender inequality is pervasive in India and South Africa,and the domain of socio-economic rights is no exception. Althoughwomen organizations try to address these issues, strategiesaddressing the intersection of socio-economic rights and genderinequality have been relatively rare (Charles and Helen, 1998). Forthis reason, violence, discrimination, sexual assaults and racialstereotypes leading to inequality do not seem to fade away in mostdeveloping countries. Gendered assumptions in many countries arebuilt on culture, attitude, and beliefs. With the help of thegovernment, societies have to unravel the effects of gender biasesand recognize the truth. This is likely to lead to economicdevelopment and increased women participation.
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