13 August 2021 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Supplied
Prof Gabrielle Griffin lauded the changes achieved the world over but cautioned against the slow change in achieving gender equality.

On the difficulty of achieving change was a fitting topic for the 2021 Biennial Humanities and Gendered Worlds lecture delivered by Prof Gabrielle Griffin, gender researcher from Uppsala University, Sweden on Wednesday 11 August 2021. The Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS) hosted the lecture in August as part of its activities to mark Women’s Month. 

Prof Griffin started the lecture off by justifying her chosen topic, saying “In many ways, we are living in a word and at a time of very significant change.”  These changing times are characterised by an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, severe climate change, the significant rise in technologisation and digitisation, and the rise of right-wing populism.  

The invariables: GBV and climate change 

“While we are going though these changes, some inequalities persist,” Prof Griffin says. One aspect of the contemporary world is that there has been a huge increase in domestic violence against women “as part of the effect of the coronavirus”.  

Violence against women has been a persistent problem in most countries around the world for a very long time. Secondly, we live in an age of climate change deniers. “There is no difference between climate deniers in different countries. People choose to believe that the climate is not changing or that humans are not responsible for it,” Prof Griffin said. 

Gender inequality and the changes we need to talk about

"There is a report from 2019 called The Future of Women at Work. It shows that when work becomes digitised, the people most affected by it are women, because the kind of jobs they tend to do are often automated in various ways,” Prof Griffin said.  It is these kinds of inequalities that continue to persist, and the question may not be that we are living in a time of change, but what kinds of change. 

Prof Griffin did not waste any time and dived right into the important changes that are not happening in terms of gender inequality. “If we look at the Global Gender Gap Report for 2021, what you see is that there is still a long way to go to close the gender gap. The report states that it will take 136 years to completely close the gender gap worldwide.” 

Prof Griffin said that countries such as Sweden, South Africa, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the United Kingdom are closer to bridging the gender gap than others. “The body of work presented by the Gender Inequality Index indicates that there is still a large proportion of gender inequality in practice,” Prof Griffin said. The index measured work, money, knowledge, time, power, and health. “On the health front, gender equality has largely been achieved across the European Union (EU), but if you look at power (women’s contributions in decision-making bodies) it is only halfway towards gender equality,” Prof Griffin said.

Lecture engages greater purpose  

“The purpose of the lecture is to critically engage gender and women’s issues, both locally and globally,” said Dr Nadine Lake, Progamme Director for Gender Studies. Past speakers of the biennial lecture included Prof Zanele Muholi and Prof Jack Halberstam. 

According to Prof Heidi Hudson, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities, the purpose of the biennial Humanities and Gendered Worlds lecture is “to have a Humanities take on gender in different locations and spaces. The emphasis on gendered ‘worlds’, and not ‘world’ is because the way in which people experience their gender identity is not only deeply personal, but also highly varied”, she said.

You can watch a recording of the lecture below:

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