Industrial restructuring and changing gender relations : the case of Isithebe in KwaZulu-Natal.
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This research, by focusing on the Isithebe industrial estate in KwaZulu Natal, analyses the process of industrial change within one location and the resulting impact on the gender relations within the surrounding communities. Rather than adopting the rather simplistic approach utilised by Women in Development advocates, is suggested that the identification, location and particular experience of power between men and women provides for a more informed position from which gender relations can be understood. Using Social Relations Analysis as a departure point, it is argued that a range of variables and impact on the construction and experience of gender, and thus the relation between men and women. In South Africa, the particular economic and social discourse initiated by apartheid resulted in the formulation of a particular understanding of gender. Various economic and industrial and social shifts over the past decade have served to challenge this conceptualisation and experience, and have resulted in a range of new dynamics between men and women. It is argued that many of the businesses located in Isithebe have been slow to follow the trends and processes of restructuring identified nationally. However, there has been some change in the gendered division of labour on the estate, as men gradually move into sectors previously reliant on female labour. Women are concurrently trapped in low skilled, low paid employment. While the increasing engagement by women in multiple livelihood strategies, within an environment of high male unemployment, is increasing the dependence of households on (he ability of women to earn an income, there is little change in the location of power at a household level. The increased autonomy and decision-making power anticipated by many theorists is not evidenced in the Isithebe community. However, as men seek for alternative sources of security as their traditional role as breadwinner is eroded, women are increasingly aware of the discrepancies and dichotomies within the household, and are beginning to reassess the relations between men and women, and the location of power. Concomitantly both men and women are in a position to reconceptualise the gender component of identity. These processes provide the basis from which unequal relations between men and women can be challenged in the future.
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