Women’s emancipation in the Global South: New figures, new issues
Agnès Adjamagbo and Anne Calvès
Over the past few decades, the countries of the Global South have seen major social, economic and political transformations that have had great consequences on gender relations. Schooling, urban growth and, more recently, the rise in cooperative movements and the spread of economic and cultural globalization have heavily modified the context in which new generations of women are being socialized and coming of age.
Since the 1990s, the promotion of gender equality has indeed taken centre stage at various international conferences (CIPD, 1994; Beijing, 1995). Studies on gender relations and on the process of women’s emancipation have multiplied in the social sciences. A good number of these works highlight the resistance of patriarchal structures of domination and the maintenance (and sometimes even the reinforcement) of male-female inequalities over the past decades. Despite these rather unoptimistic results, research by sociologists, anthropologists, historians, economists, demographers and political scientists reveal true change in the Global South in women’s status, role and their individual and collective capacity to acquire power. However, the results of these studies remain very often compartmentalized by discipline and geographic region.
This issue of Autrepart is intended to present how women’s growing independence in the Global South—however partial and marginal it may be—is taking place in both the domestic and public spheres. Among other goals, we seek to shed light on the effective conditions of empowerment, as originally defined in feminist writings: how certain women individually or collectively overturn contradictory normative injunctions, resistance and discrimination and come to liberate themselves from the oppressive social, cultural, legal and economic structures that perpetrate gender, ethnic and class domination. In this perspective, submissions should be linked to three axes:
- In terms of the domestic and family sphere, we are interested in describing and analyzing the changes that have taken place in women’s trajectories, particularly in connection with the redistribution of tasks and responsibilities within family units as imposed by economic factors. The task at hand is to shed light on the process of emerging family models that break with the dominant one and on how certain women are bypassing the commonplace procreative, sexual or matrimonial norms that are incompatible with their personal goals. The question of access to paid work and the way in which it manifests in relation to other components in the life trajectory (e.g., marriage, maternity) is a major issue that we would also like to see addressed.
- Migration is often at the heart of economic and social emancipation. We will be interested in the trajectories of women who leave their home countries to earn a living elsewhere and in the influence such an experience exerts in their relationships with men both within their families and in their places of migration. Articles should examine and illuminate both the new social status migration bestows on these women in their societies of origin and, more broadly, the new identities inherent to the situations of transnational families.
- Submissions could also present the major changes in the place women occupy in the public and political spheres in the Global South. Here, we will pay particular attention to the new opportunities that have allowed women to make themselves heard in such varied fields as family law (marriage, divorce), access to resources (land, inheritances), reproductive health (genital mutilation, sexual abuse) and employment. How do some women organize into national and international associations, cooperatives or political alliances to fight poverty, social injustice, environmental degradation and counter the effects of oppression that is intermingled with capitalism, racism and patriliny?
Studies incorporating the “intersectional” dimension of power—the way in which patriliny, ethnic origin and social class are expressed, reinforced and create inequality within groups of women in the Global South—will be regarded favorably.
In closing, the goal of this issue of Autrepart is to cast a multidisciplinary look at the modalities of women’s emancipation and its social and statutory components, as they appear more or less distinctly in the various contexts in the Global South. Here, we hope to examine the feminine condition by focusing on specific avenues to independence—there where a certain literature has until now made us accustomed to seeing but vulnerability and passivity. Therefore, the approach will consist of reporting by taking the winding road—i.e., the margin—of Southern women’s processes of effective emancipation, particularly of their empowerment.
(title, abstract of a maxim of 1500 signs)
can be sent to the journal Autrepart:
until the 4th of october 2010
Research fellow at IRD, Laboratoire Population Environnement et Développement
Associate professor, Department of Sociology, Université de Montréal