GENDER, ETHNICITY, AND PLACE Contextualizing Gender and Social Background to the Private and Public livelihoods of African women in the Diaspora (Case study - Gothenburg, Sweden).

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för socialt arbete

Abstract: Human beings in all societies are attributed to a gender that supposedly has/has not certain properties and with high identity-forming significance for the individual. Critical debates show that the magnitude and effect of gender symbolic construction, articulation as well as its dissemination differs for different groups of women depending on society and history. It is not uncommon that conflicts among women of some social backgrounds point to the careful adherence to culturally defined norms as the best guarantee for women’s fulfillment rather than doing different. This study adopts a feminist social work perspective to explore and explain how the gender division of roles affect the status and position of a group of Sub Saharan African women (living in Gothenburg), both within their families as well as their general participation in the Swedish society. The study thus seeks to examine the gendered division of roles in African households with a particular focus on women’s roles; the factors that engender women’s roles; the impact of gender roles on the status and position of women within their families; as well as on women’s participation in the Swedish society. The findings derived from interviews (with African women and professional Social workers); critical reviews of literature; as well as expert observations; reveal evidence of doing gender among these African women. Women dominate in roles such as care, nurturance, monitoring households and, supporting their spouses. All such roles culminate from socialization, institutional factors, as well as contingent on the context. The impact of such gender roles on women’s status and positions varied depending on marital status and parental responsibility. Thus within families, women command significant autonomy and independence. Gender roles only had a limited effect to women’s participation in the Swedish society compared to contextual effects that is, the political was more significant than the personal. The study thus concludes that the women’s descriptions of their roles do not manifest pertinent progress towards gender equality and/or equity, but rather good gender relations; whereas their perceived autonomy and independence exhibit spousal autonomy under overarching male superiorities. General conclusions pertaining to women’s participation in the Swedish society drawn from the evidence of women’s reasonable educational attainments, yet without matching levels of career mobility - coupled with state measures developed and planned from a sorry based perspective, the study argues for the adoption of a development strategy that can enhance women’s position; or that can promote their ability to participate fully with men as agents of development and change.

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