Towards understanding the complexities of gender equality and intersectionality

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Towards understanding the complexities of gender equality and intersectionality


By Dr Jane Usher, Head of Department for Postgraduate Studies, Milpark Business School

The year 2020 was in many people’s minds a fresh start, a new decade, in which we could focus on reaching many of the sustainability goals by 2030. Unfortunately, we were stopped in our tracks by the global COVD-19 pandemic.

Goal #5 of the sustainable development goals is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. What has been acknowledged during the pandemic is that much of the progress that we have made towards this goal has been stalled if not reversed. As a result of the pandemic, women and girls are now often confined to spaces where they cannot escape their abuser/s. The increase in domestic violence during this pandemic is alarming. In addition, women are on the frontline of the pandemic, putting them at a high risk of contracting the virus. Another element that has been clearly highlighted is that women in general, are responsible overall for the majority of household tasks and in so doing spend more than three times longer doing unpaid child care.

In South Africa, as we move to acknowledge and celebrate women in the month of August, we need to be further aware of the complexities of gender inequality. When delving deeper into the aspect of inequality, one becomes more aware of the complexities that are inherent in intersectionality. Intersectionality encompasses a variety of categories and layers which include, but are not limited to, gender, race, age, disability, class, sexual orientation, religion and so on. These areas overlap in both individual, community and societal realms. A deep and thorough exploration of these ‘intersections’ is important to allow a more profound and richer understanding of people’s lives, perceptions and challenges. By doing this, we will be able to harness the power of diversity, to use and celebrate it to add value so as to enhance the economic distress that so many women find themselves in. So while we work towards safe-guarding the progress we have made in the realm of gender equality, we need to take cognisance of these seemingly independent systems that overlap and that uphold structures that ultimately inculcate discrimination in various areas of people’s lives.

“I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world” Malala Fund


31 Aug 2020