Women of Steel : articulations of empowerment and livelihood practices in the Dwars River Valley, Western Cape

Van der Heijden, Ingrid (2009-03)

Thesis (MA (Sociology and Social Anthropology))--Stellenbosch University, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: Women’s livelihoods are not only experienced differently, but are articulated in different ways. This dissertation begins from the understanding that women’s livelihoods are processual, complex and contextual. They are embedded in multifarious processes, structures, discourses and everyday practices, which are locally defined and globally linked. This thesis interrogates women’s articulations of empowerment and agency that were central to their community and entrepreneurial activities. Women’s social actions and responses to constraints and transformation they encountered in the valley were sites of struggle. Informed by local women’s perspectives and articulations of empowerment, this ethnography focuses on how women practiced their livelihoods: how they manoeuvred, negotiated and performed their livelihood tactics in response to local, national and global constraints. The study narrates how women in a rural valley in the Winelands of the Western Cape (South Africa) spoke of how they felt ‘empowered’ despite constraints. They claimed that they exhibited productive moments and harnessed opportunities to rise above constraints. They felt that in general men in their communities were passive in their response to crisis in the valley. Women’s narratives of empowerment in the Dwars River Valley invoked ideas of ‘women of steel’ and ‘moments’ of agency. These helped to re-fashion local gender orders and rehabilitate notions of ‘appropriate’ women’s work.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die bestaanswyses van vroue word nie slegs in die uitleef daarvan waargeneem nie, maar is dikwels ook ‘n fokus van gespreksvoering. Die uitgangspunt van hierdie tesis is dat vroue se bestaanswyses metodies, kompleks en kontekstueel is. Dit word begrond deur uiteenlopende prosesse, strukture, diskoerse, en alledaagse gebruike wat plaaslik gedefinieer word en globaal gebonde is. Hierdie tesis ondersoek vroue se artikulasie van bemagtiging en agentskap wat sentraal tot hul gemeenskap en entrepreneurskap aktiwiteite staan. Vroue se sosiale handelinge en reaksies tot struikelblokke en transformasie wat hulle in die vallei in die gesig gestaar het, is beduidend van ‘n plek van worsteling. Hierdie etnografie word toegelig deur plaaslike vroue se perspektiewe en artikulasie van bemagtiging en fokus op hoe hulle hul bestaanswyse beoefen het: hoe vroue bestaanswyse taktieke gemanipuleer, onderhandel en ook uitgevoer het as reaksie op plaaslike, nasionale en globale beperkinge. Hierdie studie vertel hoe vroue in ‘n landelike vallei van die Wynlande in die Wes-Kaap (Suid-Afrika) praat oor hoe hul ‘bemagtig’ voel, ten spyte van beperkinge. Hulle voer aan dat hul produktiewe oomblikke vertoon en gebruik maak van geleenthede om bo beperkinge uit te styg. Hulle voel dat mans oor die algemeen passief in hul reaksie op krisis is. Vroue se verhale van bemagtiging in die Dwars Rivier Vallei roep beelde op van ‘vroue van staal’ en ‘oomblikke’ van agentskap. Dit het bygedra tot die herskepping van plaaslike gender rolle en die hervestiging van idees oor ‘gepaste’ werk vir vroue.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4073
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