Doing Gender from Top to Bottom? The South African Case


Beall, Jo. 2001. “Doing Gender from Top to Bottom? The South African Case.” 12 (2): 135–42.

Author: Jo Beall


By taking gender seriously, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in South Africa appeared to reverse the trend set by many liberation movements elsewhere: namely, women being mobilized as agents in struggles around class and race, yet denied the imperative of addressing gender subordination. Shortly after coming to power, the ANC adopted a national strategy for advancing gender equality. By doing so it demonstrated that it could rise above the limitations of its erstwhile `woman question’ position (Beall et al. 1989) and learn from the experience of other countries that had tried to institutionalize gender policies and structures. This in turn served to place South Africa at the cutting edge of experience in state-initiated gender policies and `national machineries’ for women. Nevertheless, South Africa’s National Machinery for Advancing Gender Equality merits critical scrutiny, both in terms of its intrinsic aims and objectives and in relation to its potential for making an impact, given the development policy context of contemporary South Africa. Drawing on research conducted in South Africa over a number of years--during the 1980s (Beall et al. 1987) and, more recently, since 1997 (Beall 1997, 1998), it is possible to consider what lessons are to be learned from the institutionalization of gender-sensitive policy and practice in a complex institutional environment.

Topics: Armed Conflict, National Liberation Wars, Class, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Race Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2001

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