Archive for July, 2015

When one mentions gender, what comes into your mind? Well, I guess it might not be different from what Oxford dictionary provides as the fact of being male or female. Gender has become a concept that is used in contemporary development vocabulary and is literally  defined as  the social cultural roles  ascribed to women and men because of their biological differences.  It has also become fashionable that every intervention, policy or program will have a component called gender. Many times, I  hear people saying that we have gender in our institution, organization programme etc because we have both men and women  and   others ask, where is gender (meaning women and men) in all this.

I should say that before I attended a gender training recently, my outlook and understanding of gender was not very different from what I have described above. I also believe that could be the perception of many people except for a few or handful who have had an opportunity to interrogate the concept beyond the surface denotation.  In this piece of writing, I would like to shade more lights on the deeper understanding and appreciation of gender for the benefit of you reading this.

Although gender is defined as the social cultural construction of roles between men and women, there is need to interpret the meaning of the roles and attributes assigned to men and women.  By doing this, one can understand that gender is not  being female or male but  the hidden historical power differences, inequality and injustice between women and men and society at large.

Connell (2002) defines gender in contemporary world as the massive hierarchies of power which cannot be reduced to male /female difference. Therefore, gender is about questioning and challenging power indifference.

Connell further stresses that gender arrangements are reproduced socially and not biologically by the power structures to constrain individuals and the arrangements are always changing as and may differ from one cultural context to another.

In other words, gender is a social structure that go beyond individual interactions between men and women. At one point, someone asked, If gender is the relationship between women and men, how do we account for power relations between women only groups or men only groups? Therefore dealing with gender goes beyond dealing with an individual women or men but also power structures in our society.  Gender challenges the current and historical power relations in a family, community, religious institutions, schools, workplace, the media, corporations and the state. of the weaker group which might not necessarily be women only.  Therefore, gender analysis interrogates the rules/ practices (both formal and informal) and how they permit or limit different categories of people in terms of who does what, who gets what, and who can claim what.

So each time you to encounter or hear the word gender do not diminish it to mean women’s issues, men and women, sex etc.  It is bigger than that; it is about challenging historical and current  power relations, discrimination, exploitation and inequalities so as to achieve social justice and equality. Nothing short of that.

My next reflection will be on patriarchy and feminist theories. Watch the space.

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