UJ’s Prof Cheryl Hendricks on decolonising the mainstreaming of gender

Professorial Inaugural address: Prof Cheryl Hendricks

Women in Africa have long been actors in the quest for the emancipation of this continent, according to Cheryl Hendricks, a professor and Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

She argued that much of the early work on women and conflict has been on revealing women’s participation in liberation movements and their associated armies, their work in women’s movements to fight for gender equality, their work to counter sexual and gender-based violence and their role in conventional militaries, when she recently delivered her inaugural address at the University.

Prof Hendricks address focussed the challenge of the dominant Western narrative of African women being mere victims of conflict or of their confinement to the private sphere.

“The development of the gender, peace and security agenda, both the scholarly and policy interventions, and how African feminists and gender activists have sought to intervene in the debates and promote the peace and security of women, require the need of a new thinking and practice to complete the unfinished business of dismantling patriarchy and creating gender equality, decolonisation and peace and security for all,” she said.

Prof Hendricks pointed out that her interest in this subject was first piqued when she was part of a facilitation team for the South African Women in Dialogue’s (SAWID) workshop in 2004, in which South African women shared their experiences of their struggle for gender equality and inclusion into peace and security structures and processes with the women of Burundi.

“Challenging Eurocentric knowledge production and practice is important not merely to include ourselves into the narratives, curricula and institutions but also because it impacts on the kinds of conclusions reached, the policy measures taken and the forms of emancipation we either will or will not experience.

“The inclusion of women and the adoption of gender sensitive legislation do not, however, translate into gender equality or into a transformed military culture; and the challenge of marginalisation remains,” she said.

She stressed that gender training has not meaningfully made an impact on gender relations. “Learning to tolerate women as part of an institution does not equal a change in the attitude about their capability to perform tasks or a belief in their right to be included in a male preserve. Women can be included into the male preserve without fundamentally changing its premises, values and orientation.”

Read Cheryl Hendricks Professorial Inaugural address entitled Intersecting Discourses of Emancipation: Gender, Peace and Security and the Decolonisation of Knowledge

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