Rehabilitating female ex-prisoners in Zimbabwe : a critical analysis from a feminist pastoral care perspective.
The study is a critical analysis from a feminist pastoral care perspective in rehabilitating female ex-prisoners in Zimbabwe. The central research question that the study focused on is: “In what ways can the understanding of the praxis of feminist pastoral care facilitate the rehabilitation of female ex-prisoners for their integration into the Zimbabwean society?” This empirical qualitative study was facilitated through feminist methods to excavate the lived experiences and perceptions of female ex-prisoners and prisoners, which were analysed through three theories. These theories were: feminist theological anthropology which provided the view male and female as equals before God; feminist cultural hermeneutics which assisted in recognising that culture and religion have a significant influence in shaping women’s identity and experiences, especially in the African context and in particular Zimbabwe; and feminist pastoral care which highlighted that all human beings are entitled to care and dignity and that in view of the pervasive gender injustice, it is essential for women to receive nurturing or support, liberation and empowerment during the pastoral care-giving process. Field research was undertaken to collect the narratives of female ex-prisoners and prisoners so as to get a fuller picture of their perceptions and experiences. In-depth interviews were conducted with twenty-eight female ex-prisoners and prisoners. The research findings highlighted central themes that emerged about how the participants perceived themselves, society and God. This data thus represented the subjective reality of the women. Their objective reality was ascertained by examining the gendered identity of women in Zimbabwe, and how this identity has been shaped by patriarchal aspects of religion and culture. The impact of these constructed identities on the lives of women in Zimbabwe is most evident in the areas of education, employment, health, access to resources and family life. The purpose of this study was to identify the rehabilitation needs of female ex-prisoners in Zimbabwe. To achieve this, an examination of the current theories of rehabilitation was conducted, followed by a critical gendered analysis thereof, employing the three theories vii | P a g e underpinning this study. The theories of rehabilitation revealed wide gender disparities and to address this, an African feminist pastoral care theory of rehabilitation was proposed. Using this proposed theory, current rehabilitation programmes, with special focus on those working with African women prisoners and ex-prisoners in Zimbabwe, while also making reference to those in South Africa, were then interrogated. Following on from this, a gender-sensitive programme of rehabilitation was put forward, which took into account first, the subjective experiences of the female ex- prisoners and prisoners of this study; second, the objective reality of Zimbabwean women’s daily lives; and third, the main features of current faith-based programmes and where these fall short in terms of the proposed African feminist pastoral care theory of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation programme that emerged from this process is of potential use to faith- based organisations and chaplains working with African women inmates and released prisoners.
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