NGOs as linkages between grassroots women and the state : prospects for state feminism in South Africa

Slamat, Anastasia Nicole (2013-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The core question that is addressed by this research is whether, and to what extent South African women’s NGOs contribute to enhancing state feminism through their ability to articulate and mobilise the strategic interests of women at grassroots level to appear on the national agenda, through the channels provided by the National Gender Machinery (structures of the state). A literature review was conducted that draws on the work of predominantly feminist authors in order to locate this research in previous scholarly knowledge that is relevant to the purpose of this study. The literature review includes elaboration of concepts like state feminism, women’s interests, agenda setting, civil society, and linkages between the women’s movement and the National Gender Machinery (NGM). A theoretical framework developed by Stetson and Mazur (1995), which aims at measuring whether gender machineries facilitate an increase in gender equality within the state, is used. The framework utilises two dimensions in order to investigate the level of state feminism within a country, i.e. state capacity, which investigates to what extent gender machineries influence and inform policy that is feminist and gender friendly; and state-society relations, which investigates the extent to which gender machineries provide opportunities for organised civil society actors (women’s organisations) to engage and access policy making and contribute to policy influence. In order to examine the levels of state capacity present in South Africa with regard to gender equality, current patterns of politics (a concept used by Stetson and Mazur) are considered. This is done in order to evaluate whether the political context is conducive to the passing and implementation of policy that is of a feminist nature. A qualitative study of the experience of four South African women’s NGOs, using face-to-face interviews specially designed for this purpose, was undertaken. The NGOs were interviewed in order to ascertain the status of state-society linkages, and whether the state provides access to civil society actors to inform policy making and implementation from a gender-friendly perspective that is reflective of grassroots women’s interests. The NGOs interviewed are the New Women’s Movement (NWM), the Women’s Legal Centre, the Black Sash and the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG). The findings of the fieldwork are analysed according to the framework of Stetson and Mazur (1995) in order to formulate a response to the research question. Findings include the presence of state capacity that is hostile to gender issues, with minimal (unreceptive) efforts to engage society actors in a flourishing state-society relationship. The provision of unreceptive and inconsistent space provided by the state, the lack of commitment to gender by women working within the state, and the state of “decline” that many South African NGOs are facing, have led to a “blockage” in the articulation of gender issues by NGOs that emanates from grassroots level to inform policy making, and contributes to the institutionalisation of state feminism. The national levels have therefore been largely out of touch with the interests of women at grassroots level as a result of minimal engagement and communication through the (dysfunctional) NGM. The state has spoken on behalf of, and decided on behalf of, women what is best for them and their livelihoods. Instead of being a gateway to the institutionalisation of state feminism, the state has acted as a patriarchal entity and has, to a very large extent, further entrenched gender inequality and the hardships faced by ordinary South African women at grassroots level.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die kernvraag wat deur hierdie navorsing aangespreek word is of, en tot watter mate, Suid-Afrikaanse vroue se nie-regeringsorganisasies (NRO’s) bydra tot die verbreding van staatsfeminisme deur hul vermoë om die strategiese belange van vroue op voetsoolvlak te artikuleer sodat dit op die nasionale agenda deur die kanale wat deur die Nasionale Gender Masjinerie (NGM) (strukture in die staat) verskaf word, verskyn. ’n Literatuurstudie, wat die werk van hoofsaaklik feministiese outeurs aanhaal, is onderneem om hierdie navorsing binne vorige akademiese kennis wat relevant is tot die doel van hierdie studie, te plaas. Dit sluit bespreking van konsepte soos staatsfeminisme, vrouebelange, agenda-skepping, burgerlike samelewing, en verhoudings tussen die vrouebeweging en die NGM in. ’n Teoretiese raamwerk wat deur Stetson en Mazur (1995) ontwikkel is, wat ten doel het om vas te stel of gendermasjinerie ’n toename in geslagsgelykheid binne die staat fasiliteer, word gebruik. Die raamwerk gebruik twee dimensies om die vlak van staatsfeminisme in ’n land te ondersoek, naamlik staatskapsiteit, wat ondersoek tot watter mate gendermasjinerie beleid wat feministies en gender-vriendelik is, beïnvloed en inlig; en staat-samelewing verhoudinge, wat ondersoek instel na die mate waartoe gendermasjinerie geleenthede bied vir akteurs vanuit die georganiseerde burgerlike samelewing om toegang te kry tot en deel te neem aan die beleidmakings- en -implementeringsproses. Om die vlakke van staatskapasiteit t.o.v. geslagsgelykheid in Suid-Afrika te ontleed, word kontemporêre politieke patrone (’n konsep wat deur Stetson en Mazur gebruik word) gebruik. Dit word gedoen om vas te stel of die politieke konteks gunstig is vir die goedkeuring en implementering van beleid van ’n feministiese aard. ’n Kwalitatiewe studie van die ervaring van vier Suid-Afrikaanse NRO’s met behulp van aangesig-tot-aangesig onderhoude wat spesiaal vir hierdie doel ontwerp is, is onderneem. Die onderhoude is met die NRO’s gevoer om die status van staat-samelewing verhoudings vas te stel, en om te bepaal of die staat toegang verleen aan akteurs vanuit die burgerlike samelewing om beleidmakings- en -implementeringsprosesse vanuit ’n gender-vriendelike perspektief, wat die belange van vroue op voetsoolvlak reflekteer, te informeer. Die NRO’s waarmee onderhoude gevoer is, is die New Women’s Movement (NWM), die Women’s Legal Centre, die Black Sash en die International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG). Die bevindinge is volgens die raamwerk van Stetson en Mazur (1995) geanaliseer ten einde ’n antwoord op die navorsingsvraag te bied. Die bevindinge sluit in die aanwesigheid van staatskapasiteit wat vyandig gesind is teenoor gendersake, met minimale (nie-ontvanklike) pogings om akteurs vanuit die samelewing betrokke te kry in ’n florerende staat-samelewing verhouding. Die voorsiening van ’n nie-ontvanklike en nie-konsekwente ruimte deur die staat, die gebrek aan toewyding tot gendersake deur vroue wat binne die staat werk, en die toestand van agteruitgang wat baie Suid-Afrikaanse NRO’s in die gesig staar, het gelei tot ’n “blokkasie” in die artikulering van gendersake deur NRO’s, wat hul oorsprong het vanaf die voetsoolvlak om beleidmaking te informeer, en by te dra tot die institusionalisering van staatsfeminisme. Die nasionale vlak is dus baie uit voeling met die belange van vroue op voetsoolvlak a.g.v. minimale betrokkenheid en kommunikasie deur die (disfunksionele) NGM. Die staat praat en besluit namens vroue oor wat die beste vir hulle en hul bestaanswyses is. In stede van ’n poort te wees tot die institusionalisering van staatsfeminisme, tree die staat op as ’n patriargale entiteit en dra dit grootliks daartoe by om gender-ongelykheid en die swaarkry van gewone Suid-Afrikaanse vroue op voetsoolvlak verder te verskans.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80228
This item appears in the following collections: