Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
19 March 2020 | Story Opinion article by Prof Hussein Solomon | Photo Supplied
Hussein Soloman
Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor: Political Studies and Goverance

The world celebrated International Women’s Day on 8th March 2020. Such symbolic days, however, seem to have little effect on the actual status of women in the world as a recent United Nations report notes. Despite strides towards greater gender equality, the world body notes there is not a single country which has achieved gender equality. Moreover, 90 percent of men and women hold some bias against females. The statistics are alarming: 50 percent of men thought they had more rights to a job than women, and a third of respondents in 75 countries felt it was acceptable for men to hit women. In China, 55 percent of respondents felt that men make better political figures. Even in what used to be regarded as the bastion of liberal democracy, the USA, 39 percent agreed with the statement that men make better political leaders than women.

Participation of women in the labour force

Disappointing as these figures are, there is hope if one considers how patriarchy is being overcome in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. It is here where patriarchy first developed between 3100 B.C and 600 B.C. It is also the region which has experienced the least gender progress in the world. The figures are incontrovertible. Given the widely held view that women belong in the domestic sphere focusing on keeping house and child-rearing, there are low rates of participation of women in the labour force. Only 24 percent of women in the MENA region are employed, whilst the figure for their male counterparts is 77 percent.  Moreover, according to a report of the International Labour Organization, young women with higher education have a slim chance of entering employment than their less-educated male counterparts. This has negative consequences for the household economy and the economy at large, and it perpetuates greater dependence male family members (husbands, fathers, brothers) -patriarchy, built as it is on vertical power relations, is further entrenched.

The absence of women in positions of power is glaring in the MENA region, as is their absence in governance which is made possible by patriarchal attitudes.  According to the Arab Barometer the majority of respondents believe in limiting the role of women in society. Within the home, 60 percent believe that the husband should be the final decision maker in matters impacting the family. Moreover, only a third of the Arab public believe that women are as effective as men in public leadership roles.

Resisting marginalisation

Whilst the marginalization and oppression of women is a sad truism of MENA countries, this should not be the norm. Patriarchy was constructed and can be deconstructed. The challenge for feminists then is to actively resist their marginalization in conjunction with other progressive players and to utilize the tectonic changes underway in the Middle East – from the penetration of the internet, to making common cause with progressive forces in society to open up the democratic space. Democratic space in this sense does not only mean the fight for the ballot but also emancipation in every sense – including freedom from patriarchy. There is reason to believe that some of this is beginning to happen in the region.  Consider, for instance, how Morocco’s rural women in an effort to access land from conservative tribal authorities, formed action committees called Sulaliyyates. These challenged tribal authorities and women’s subordination in the family and the work place.

There is reason to believe that women’s experiences in mobilizing against authoritarian regimes in the region have resulted in a new consciousness on their part. They see the connection between their own oppression and the need for emancipation of the broader society. When women took to the streets against Al-Bashir in Sudan it was their awareness of how fuel shortages and inflation brought on by corrupt and inefficient governance were increasing household food security. Following the July 2019 agreement between the military junta and the alliance of opposition parties, there was an effort to force women back into the home to play their “traditional” roles. However, women have remained politically engaged and mobilised – decrying everything from the persistence of sexual harassment to demanding the prosecutions of those involved in wrong-doing from the Bashir era.

Social justice and gender equality

Women activists are also pushing back on the streets of Tehran, Ankara and Algiers. In Tehran, women’s’ grassroot movements are calling on Islamic Republic to fulfil their promises of social justice and gender equality. Their resistance to patriarchy has taken the form of disobedience, refusal, and subversion. Initially their activism sought to reform the rule of the mullahs within the prevailing system spurred on by a reformist president – President Khatami - who demonstrated greater receptivity to gender equality. In the past two years women’s groups in Iran increasingly called for the end of Iran’s post-1979 system of governance as they view such theocracy as antithetical to the cause of gender emancipation. In Ankara, feminists have taken on domestic violence by forming the Purple Roof Women’s Shelter Foundation in an effort to collectively fight abuse in the family.

Meanwhile, in Algiers, women have been at the forefront of the protest movement against the establishment or what Algerians term a “Le Pouvoir” – the cabal of generals, businessmen and politicians of the ruling party which govern this North African country. For 19-year old Miriam Saoud, it was seeing the back of this political elite that impoverished ordinary Algerians through their corrupt practices. For 22-year old political science student Amina Djouadi, it was about real political representation for male and female citizens. Whilst the presence of this younger generation of women makes sense given the fact that half of Algeria’s population is below thirty years of age, who bear the brunt of unemployment - older women have also been on the Algerian streets. Elderly Nissa Imad was also on the streets protesting. All five of her children are unemployed. Explaining her presence against the barricades she defiantly states, “I am here for the young, for our kids. There’s nothing for the young generations. No jobs and no houses. They can’t get married. We want this whole system to go”. It is clear from the narratives of these women that they see the connection between their daily lived experiences of disempowerment and marginalization, and the broader structural causes, and therefore are actively seeking the end of the patriarchal and oppressive political and economic order.

Changing attitudes

Despite the MENA region having the largest gender gap of all regions in the world, there is hope too. Attitudes are changing and becoming less patriarchal - the Arab Barometer starkly demonstrates this, where 75 percent in the MENA region support women’s access to tertiary education, 84 percent believe that women should be allowed to work in the labour force, whilst 62 percent believe that women should be allowed into political office. What accounts for these progressive attitudes? First, there seems to be a generational divide with younger people (which comprise the majority in the MENA region) holding less patriarchal views. Second, with access to tertiary education, those holding post-secondary qualifications are less discriminatory in their attitudes than those without post-school qualifications. The momentum for a post-patriarchal MENA region is therefore increasing.

This article was written by Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor: Political Studies and Goverance 

News Archive

Heinrich Brüssow named as Kovsie Alumnus of the Year
2010-08-19

Ms Jackie Ntshingila  Prof. Teuns Verschoor  Prof. Benito Khotseng  Heinrich Brüssow 

The Alumni of the University of the Free State (UFS) have named Heinrich Brüssow as the Kovsie Alumnus of the Year for 2009.

At the same time, Ms Jackie Ntshingila, the Provincial Manager of the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), will receive the Kovsie Alumni Cum Laude Award, while the Executive Management Award will be awarded to Prof. Teuns Verschoor, acting Senior Vice-Rector at the UFS, and Prof. Benito Khotseng. These awards, which are made annually to honour alumni of the UFS for their exceptional achievements and contributions to the university, will be awarded on Friday, 3 September 2010.

Heinrich is currently one of the most formidable Free State Cheetahs players. During the international Super 14 Competition he was a pillar of strength for his team in many respects. He was one of the outstanding players in the match between the Springboks and the Lions. He has established himself in the triumphant Springbok team as one of the definite choices. He received the Man-of-the-Match award in the Springboks’ victory over the All Blacks on 25 July 2009, as well as the awards as the Provincial Player of the Castle SA 2009 Tournament, the SA Rugby Young Player of the Year 2009 and the 2009 Sports24 Performer of the Month.

Ms Ntshingila will receive the Kovsie Alumni Cum Laude Award for her role in the business development sector in the Free State and particularly the empowerment of women in the business sector. Her constructive inputs on various committees have lead to the outstanding role that she has played to expand SEDA in the Free State from 1 to 56 members and five branches during a relatively short period.

Prof. Verschoor will receive an Executive Management Award for the tremendous role he has played in many student matters, research, transformation and other university matters. Recognition is also given to the role that he fulfilled as acting Rector of the university during 2008-2009. In this he has emphasised his passion and commitment towards the university. In 2004 he received a Centenary Medal for management, diversity and student transformation.

Prof. Khotseng will receive an Executive Management Award for his influential and leading role during the 1990s, when the UFS was established as an outstanding institution. Prof. Khotseng played a leading and influential role as Vice-Rector: Student Affairs. He has served on the UFS Council from 1993 and in 1994 he accepted the position as Senior Manager: Strategic Programmes at Kovsies. He managed transformation and the marketing of the university in the black community with distinction. In 1995 he helped to diffuse the conflict in residences and to create a culture of learning. With the help of the Multicultural and Transformation Committees he taught persons to respect and understand one another. In 2004 he also received a Centenary Medal. 

The coveted Kovsie Alumni Awards will be handed over at a Kovsie Alumni breakfast. All alumni are welcome at the breakfast which will take place in the Reitz Hall of the UFS Centenary Complex. The cost is R50 per person and includes a delicious breakfast. If you are interested in attending, please contact Annanda Calitz at 051 401 3382 or ficka@ufs.ac.za  
 
Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za
19 August 2010

 

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept