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Changing gender roles in the household: a case study of Lamontville in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa.

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Gender roles are expectations that individuals, groups, and societies have of people based on their sex. These expectations are also based on each society's values and beliefs. Society is constructed in a way that traditional and cultural norms shape gender roles in societies, and these are expressed in households where men and women are not given equal roles. The overall aim of the study was to investigate the construction of gender roles and the factors that lead to gender inequality within households in townships, specifically in Lamontville in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The qualitative data used in this study was collected from indepth interviews with twenty men and women in Lamontville township, in the south of Durban. The findings of this study showed that women tend to be side-lined when it comes to decision making in the household. Participants noted that inequalities are deeply rooted after marriage and women are denied the opportunity of pursuing their studies to empower themselves. In addition, this tends to result in unequal power relations and gender inequities that originate from male domination and socio-cultural structures in the society. As much as there are minor improvements in gender relations in some parts of South Africa, women are still disproportionately burdened by the realities of gender inequality, gender stereotypes and structural violence within households. During the interviews, participants also showed that socio-cultural structures, education, geographical setting, poverty and economic status are major factors that reinforce the unbalanced gender roles in societies today. Additionally, the lack of education for some women has led to the exacerbation of gender inequality, as many households in Lamontville are headed by men. Experiences of gender-based violence and domestic abuse was also noted by a few female participants but they emphasized that they would not leave their husbands because they are financially dependent on them for survival and for those of their children. This study points to the importance of ensuring that the safety of women in households is maintained by promoting greater equality.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.