College of Human Sciences

IGS revitalising gender studies in southern Africa

Institute of Gender Studies (IGS) held a two day symposium where the re-curriculation of the Honours in Gender Studies programme was discussed and presentations on gender research were delivered on 19-20 March 2012 at the Kgorong building.

The first day of the symposium was a stakeholder engagement where various practitioners from the gender industry came together to conceptualise Unisa’s new honours degree in Gender Studies from an African perspective not according to western notions. This has hardly happened in the College of Human Sciences where a degree cuts across so many disciplines.

The consultative curriculum development approach (also known as the “Framework for the Implementation of a Team Approach”) had the gender practitioners, scholars and researchers to give input into the re-curriculation of the Honours course, which they aim to offer as a fully online course in 2014.

The practitioners said that they applaud Unisa and the College for moving towards online delivery as this will encourage students to learn where ever they are and whenever it suits them. They also emphasised that the gender studies degree can assist students to be advocates and agents for change in their communities, they further said that the degree has the potential for transformation.

The practitioners were encouraged to dream about the ideal gender studies graduate and a keynote address, given by Dr Nthabiseng Motsemme from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, did just that. Dr Motsemme spoke of the major issue of higher education institutions needing to raise women academics.

“Higher education institutions are having major challenges in developing the next generation of women academics and increasing young researchers. We need to make institutions to be places where everyone can advance and lead,” said Dr Motsemme. She further advised that institutions need to build culture of intense mentorship and look at ways to assist women to balance motherhood and being academics.

The second day of the symposium was a thought-provoking research conference held at the Bamboo Hall, where various gender researchers and practitioners present papers on current gender research.

Professor at UNISA  and co-director of the Medical Research Council/ UNISA Safety and Peace Promotion Research Unit, Prof Kopano Ratele delivered a  stimulating address will be on Why young black men are more vulnerable to homicide.

Being a prominent scholar of masculinity, Prof Ratele, expanded on why there is such a high rate male homicides, violence and victimization in South Africa, particularly in urban areas. As there a 34.1% rate of homicide-highest rates are in Cape Town are seen among black makes between the ages of 20-24.

“SA, according to a report, is seen to be a damaged and an unhappy society. The loss of lives incurred in SA is higher than many other countries. Premature death is related to a country’s level of well being, happiness and quality of relationships,” said Prof Ratele.

He mentioned that race, age, sex and space are crucial variables in fatal interpersonal violence, the variables being history of oppression, marginalisation, gender relations, power, poverty, bio psycho-social developmental and urbanisation. All these variables need to be considered in anti-violence programmes.

Prof Ratele concluded by stating that young men who do not achieve a sense of manhood seem more likely to engage in violence. Studies on violence in SA underemphasise men’s heighted vulnerability to violence. The social and emotional complex generates vulnerability to harm others-this is tied to the country’s history and socio-economic order.  (Link to podcast)

The research conference had over ten papers delivered and amongst them Prof Vasu Reddy spoke about reports of abuse on homosexuality in the military, how gays are humiliated and beaten up in order to ‘change’. Dr Shahana Rasool spoke on how abused women are unaware of the role of social services for assistance or a resource to get out of abusive relationships and domestic violence. Prof Relebohile Molestsane provoked the idea of dress as material culture in social science research and how dress studies, gender and material culture can help path a new research path in southern Africa.

The College of Human Sciences’ flagship project of multi interdisciplinary at IGS, the symposium showcased rich and diverse gender research from different perspectives.  A journal by IGS will be created, so CHS staff are encouraged to submit any gender research to be published in the journal.

By Kgaugelo Pule

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