On the 4th and 5th of May, Africa Unite, in collaboration with the Democracy Development Programme, hosted a two-day Gender and Development workshop entitled “Beyond What You See”. There were a diverse group of institutions and people present including the Legal Resource Centre, the South African National Aids Counsel, representatives of the LGBTIAQ communities (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual, Asexual, Queer), etc. The workshop was hosted to develop ideas on how society organises work and opportunity around gender. An additional aim was to examine the civil and human rights related to gender and sexuality that exist in other African countries. The goal of the day was to have the workshop attendees’ walkout of the event with specific ideas on how to tackle gender inequality.
The facilitation methods varied so that all learners were accommodated: videos, group work, dialogue, presentations and demonstrations were all used. The participants were taught how they could replicate these methods if they chose to host their own workshops on gender in the future. A key factor throughout the workshop was language: the sessions were delivered in 70% English and 30% isiZulu. The use of both languages demonstrated their differences: while English allowed the participants to be more expressive and comfortable, it highlighted how difficult it was to explain complexities of gender in isiZulu, as most of the words that exist are deemed derogatory by the LGBTIAQ community.
During the course of the workshop, many issues were examined and unpacked including gender stereotypes, the (lack of) access to resources, media portrayal of gender roles (often reinforcing their rigidity), and how masculinity is affirmed while femininity is shunned, something that can manifest itself in gender-based violence. In addition, through role play the participants were forced to confront their own stereotypes and bias towards gender.
An interesting component was where the participants looked at their own childhood influences to examine the way these figures influenced them when it came to constructing gender. The majority of participants named their mothers and grandmothers as influencers. Although these female influencers seemed to have traits typically associated with masculinity (brave, bread winners, strong, etc), they still expected their sons and daughters to stay within the societal expectations of each role.
The ‘Gender in Africa’ session was led by Nkululeko Dlamini, a 2017 KZN Peer Educator. This session looked at African countries who had outlawed homosexuality and the ensuing brutality. It also looked at universal human rights and the very basics of the right to life and dignity, unpacking these notions to understand how sectioning society based on gender can lead to gross human rights violation under the pretext of morality.
The group also discussed gender inequality and the issues it can cause, addressing everything from women not being afforded the opportunity to their own land, to openly gay people being side-lined in politics, to the taxi industry keeping female drivers out, to how understanding how rape is a product of inequality.
At the conclusion of the session, the individuals were asked to brainstorm on ways they could make the ideas discussed come to life through their organisations and communities. Ideas included:
- Hosting information session about human rights
- Hosting land acquisition information sessions with women
- Holding man-to-man dialogues on gender