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Welcome to Gender Equality

The Women’s & Gender Studies Department has consistently challenged gender inequality issues through its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.


 Gender Equality


The Women’s & Gender Studies Department has consistently challenged gender inequality issues through its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The Department aims to locate gender scholarship within the socio-political context of transformation in South Africa, through teaching, research, service, development and advocacy. Emerging out of UWC’s activist history as a struggle university, what is now the Women’s & Gender Studies Department was established (via the Gender Equity Unit) in the mid-1990s as a postgraduate programme. The part-time programme quickly attracted substantial numbers of mature students aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who had been active in fighting the gender and racial inequalities they experienced in everyday life under apartheid. For many, commitment to these struggles had come at the price of a formal education. In the absence of an undergraduate degree in WGS or a related field, the programme made full use of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to admit those who hoped to strengthen their activism through deepening their understanding of the structures and processes of inequality. Today, as a departmentoffering undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities, our work was recognised by the Division for Lifelong Learning in the graduation ceremony of March 2011 when one of our honours students, Hortensia Fohtung, won the award for learners over 50 and the Department won the Group Award.

1. The politics of care, welfare and social cohesion: Intersectional perspectives on redistributive and liberal welfare regimes in a global context: A South African (led by Tamara Shefer)

Tamara Shefer is the main applicant in an international research seminar on families that represents a collaboration between the University of Basel’s Gender Zentrum and WGS. The seminar will take place in 2012. She is also co-editor on a book on gender and care with Vasu Reddy, Thenjiwe Meyiwe and Stephan Meyer that is based on an earlier collaborative seminar that took place in Basel in 2010 as part of this larger collaboration.

2. Internationalising South African Women’s History (led by Lindsay Clowes)

Lindsay Clowes is collaborating with Patricia van der Spuy of Castleton State University, Vermont, USA in a project entitled “Internationalising South African women’s history”. The study explores the relationships between local and international women political leaders in the 1920s and 1930s.

3. Globalization and the Body: North-South-South Higher Education Institution Network Programme (led by Desiree Lewis)

Desiree Lewis continues to represent the WGS Department in a North-South-South Higher Education Institution Network Programme entitled “Globalization and the Body”, co-ordinated by Åbo Akademi University Department of Women’s Studies, Finland. The Programme draws together participants from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Iceland, provides opportunities for student exchanges, short summer/winter schools for students and staff exchanges or research collaboration. This project is currently in the final year of its four-year cycle. Three UWC students were funded to attend the intensive course on Globalization and the Body, in August 2010.

4. Views of male university students (led by Tamara Shefer and Lindsay Clowes)

WGS is continuing to employ innovative methodologies that foreground inquiry based learning through their collaboration with the MRC and UNISA. In 2010 3rd year students explored some of the ways in which clothes signal gender. In 2009 3rd year students explored men’s experiences and understandings of being fathered, and in 2008 students focused on male violence. In 2011 students focused on the intersections between love and money.

5. Life Orientation sexuality programmes and normative gender narratives, practices and power relations

Tamara Shefer and Sisa Ngabaza are collaborating on a SANPAD funded research project with Catriona Macleod and other colleagues at Rhodes University and the University of Stellenbosch. This three-year project involves a gender analysis of Life Orientation at a selection of schools in theWestern and Eastern Cape.

Finally, Tamara Shefer is engaged in a study on transactional sex and gender power relations that draws on a range of qualitative research projects she has completed over the last few years.

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