A Postcolonial Feminist Critique of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: A South African Application

Citation:

Struckmann, Christiane. 2017. “A Postcolonial Feminist Critique of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: A South African Application.” Master's thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Author: Christiane Struckmann

Abstract:

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, more commonly known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was launched in September 2015. The SDGs are a global target-setting development agenda aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring peace and prosperity for all by 2030. The SDGs have been lauded for vastly improving on their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by broadening the global development agenda to include environmental, social, economic and political concerns, and for, in the process of their formulation, engaging with member states and civil society groups. The SDGs can further be commended for broadening the scope of the targets under the goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and for recognizing that gender equality has social, economic, and political dimensions. This study employs a postcolonial feminist theoretical framework to critique the SDGs and to make recommendations on how these critiques can inform South Africa’s implementation of the SDGs, with the ultimate aim of achieving substantive gender equality and women’s empowerment in the country. The study argues that the MDGs and South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) have failed to guarantee gender justice because they are anchored in two cognate theoretical approaches – liberal feminism and economic neoliberalism – that prioritize economic growth over addressing the structural drivers of women’s subordination and oppression. In contrast to liberal feminism, postcolonial feminism recognizes that gender inequality has interconnected economic, political and social dimensions in which power inequalities and discriminatory norms are embedded. It consequently seeks fundamentally to challenge and transform dominant patriarchal, racial and economic power structures, both in the public and private domain. A postcolonial feminist critique of the SDGs highlights that corporate interests have taken precedence over feminist critiques demanding systemic transformation. It is up to the South African government to recognize and enlarge women’s freedom and agency, and to initiate truly transformative local strategies that address the systemic drivers of gender injustice. Given that Government has affirmed that its unreservedly gender-blind NDP will inform South Africa’s engagement with the SDGs, it is highly likely that the country’s 30 million women will be left behind.

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Development, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Organizations, Justice, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2017

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