Towards a gendered theology of works : a case study of the paid and unpaid work experiences of Indian Christian women in Pietermaritzburg.
Marie, Rowanne Sarojini.
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This study investigates the paid and unpaid work experiences of Indian Christian women in Pietermaritzburg as they would inform a framework for a gendered theology of work. Intersecting gender and development theory with theologies of work, the study asserts that gender, particularly as it relates to understandings of what constitutes "work", has been neglected by theologians. In order to better understand the "work" roles of women, gender and development theorist, Caroline Moser (1993) has provided a framework. She asserts that women‘s work roles can be categorized in three important ways namely, productive work, reproductive work and community work. The gender-based division of labour has contributed to socially ascribed gender roles that cause women to be primarily responsible for monotonous, exasperating, tiring, time-consuming and economically unrewarding activities. Men on the other hand occupy "productive" roles that are economically rewarding and community roles that are usually seen as prestigious. Similar roles carried out by women are often not rewarded and are undervalued. Due to the social construction of differentiated gender roles, tasks associated with the reproduction of society fall almost entirely to women. Moser‘s (1993) conceptualization of women‘s roles is useful in this study, highlighting the different types of work that Indian women are involved in. However, this gendered analysis has not been prevalent in existing theologies of work. Rather, these focus solely on doctrinal, class or ethics perspectives. Furthermore, it is argued that these theologies of work are developed without the first-hand knowledge of the experiences, struggles and challenges that workers themselves encounter. This is particularly the case for women workers. In order to investigate women‘s work experiences in this study, extensive fieldwork was carried with a group of Indian Christian women in Pietermaritzburg. Four research tools, namely a questionnaire, a 24-hour time study diary, semi structured interviews and focus group discussions were developed and employed to better understand their work roles. The findings revealed that Indian women continue to remain confined to these roles of productive, reproductive and community work because of the impact of culture as well as religion. While some Indian women have entered the productive market and are financial contributors to households, they still assume the roles that are culturally seen as 'women‘s work‘. In addition, their theological understandings and Biblical interpretations of work have resulted in women remaining acquiescent to such roles which are often depicted as 'the ideal woman‘. In a context where women find themselves immersed in roles of production, reproduction and community work, it is crucial that theological reflection engages these work experiences which are intertwined with women‘s faith practices. This study is an attempt to do this as it offers a framework that points toward a gendered theology of work.