Women face multi-dimension struggles in society – South African gender activist


South Africa – A SOUTH African gender activist and academician has noted that women do not just face one but multi-dimensional struggle in society.
During a panel discussion themed Gender: Confronting the patriarchal structures embedded in class, religion and tradition at the second annual conference on Pan-Africanism Today held in Tunisia recently, Vashna Jagarnath said there were a variety of issues interacting in the social oppression of women.
Jagarnath said it was always difficult to discuss the issues involving the female gender during such gatherings because despite women representing more than half of the world’s population, they were only allotted an hour to deliberate on the issues affecting them.
“Therefore, it will not be possible [given the limited time] to create a strong narrative but it will nonetheless help to start a debate,” she said. “It seems as if women are not part of the struggles or they are a standalone who should be locked in a special place. Whenever the issue of gender is being discussed it is actually referring to the women but it is never called what it was.”
On the point of women confronting patriarchal structures, she said women do not just face one struggle in society but multi-dimensional struggles.
“Women are daily being struck, facing abuse and there is need for society to be careful on how it replicates these things. The thing that shapes current conditions for the women in society is capitalism,” Jagarnath said. “While labour is exploited at the point of production, the reproduction rights of women are largely marginalised. This helps capitalism because it does not have to pay for that labour and the justification is that it is part of their religious or cultural practices.”
She said further that it was under the capitalist system that women are relegated to the homes.
“Whenever people hear the term worker, they always visualise a muscular figure because women are never seen as labourers. Women’s domestic labour is work and they should be compensated for it,” Jagarnath said. “Society should understand that capitalism is an all-encompassing system that leads to another all-encompassing system of patriarch which has in turn led to the marginalisation and exploitation of women. It marginalises women so that they could be exploited. Men need to check themselves over patriarch because it does a lot to women and diminishes their lives.”
She, however, said patriarch was not just a problem for the men because there were women that police other women on the basis of religion or culture.
“Consumerism polices women. There is need for people to speak to their collective engagement as the so-called Marxist leftist. This can be done by this [PAT] collective through the holding of a mirror towards ourselves and interrogate what needs to be done,” she urged. “Those in the Marxist circles also seem to mask this under the guise of it being political work when women are involved. We have to be very careful how were replicate various aspects of oppression of our people, especially when it comes to the issue of always relegating the issues of women to that of the youths or children.”
Jagarnath said women were not children but adults who do not need anyone to shepherd them, especially that no one connects issues of men to that of the youths.
“There is need to change the means and structures of oppression in society. The same should be done on the issue of gender,” she said. “Everyone is patriarchal; the system is patriarchal and this is the reason women shame other women. People should start thinking of the home as a political space if things are to change.”


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