Mobilising women in the space between education access and socio-economic empowerment : a human rights perspective
John Chetty, Desiree
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The Millennium Development Goals instituted by the United Nations (2000), serves as a global framework for the advancement of women’s education and empowerment amongst other objectives. Similarly, South Africa’s Bill on Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) (South Africa, 2014a) serves as a national legislative framework for the socio-economic empowerment of women through the conduits of education and training amongst other ambits. The WEGE Bill (South Africa, 2014a) gives effect to the letter and spirit of the country’s progressive Constitution (South Africa, 1996a), which is founded upon the democratic virtues of human dignity, equality and freedom. Employing these ternary emancipatory intended legislations as groundwork, this study explores the extent to which the human right to education navigates women’s access to education towards social and economic empowerment. Notwithstanding such liberal legislations in place, universally and on the threshold of South African soil, I argue that women are perpetually subjected to multiple forms of discrimination, which nullify their human rights. To substantiate this, I have combined a range of statistics with the lived experiences of women and girls’ and the atrocities that besiege them at various junctures. Such accounts reveal the falseness of the assumption that if women are accorded their human right to education, this self-same right will automatically beget to their social and economic empowerment. There is a silent ignorance on the reality that between the continuums of access to education and empowerment there is a space at the epicentre where the complexities of race, gender, sexuality and sexism, and age converge. The main objectives of my research study were: * To explore to what extent the human right to education takes account of the underlying assumptions that education access leads to socio-economic empowerment * To investigate how the WEGE Bill mobilises women’s socio-economic empowerment from a poststructuralist feminist discourse perspective * To explore how the complex processes embedded in the space between access and socio-economic empowerment for women can be unpacked to better understand the notion of the human right to education In addressing the underlying assumptions about access to education and socio-economic empowerment in relation to a critical analysis of the WEGE Bill (South Africa, 2014a) I draw on the theoretical framework of intersectionality to unpack the complexities and demonstrate how a woman’s identity is intertwined with social and cultural categories. This reveals the compounded layers of oppression and marginalisation that eclipse women. This study was situated in the paradigm of a poststructuralist feminist discourse and used a qualitative, autoethnographic methodological framework. My autobiographical narrative served as the data-generating instrument and Jackson and Mazzei’s (2012) “plugging in” theory and McCall’s (2005) intra-categorical intersectional approach as the data analysing method. Essentially, my autobiographical narrative was plugged into the theory of intersectionality as a concept. The analysis of my autobiographical narrative reveals three meta-events (disruptions) i.e. personal, educational and relocational. Each disruption is consequently examined to determine how the theory of intersectionality unfolds in the moments of disruption and what its resultant bearing on the democratic virtues of human dignity, equality and freedom is. The extent to which the disruptive moments narrow or widen the space between the continuums of access to education and socio-economic empowerment is also explored. By interpreting the intersections of the meta-events, the intersectional categories specific to this study are synthesised and discoursed according to the intersectional theory and the notion of human rights. The analysis drew both on aspects of “plugging in” (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012) and the power of disruptions through intra-categorical intersectionality. This allowed for new proliferation of factors and unveilings to come to the fore which heralded the way for me both to expand and challenge the theory of intersectionality.
- Education