Paving the way for better gender studies

28 May 2002

Women talk: Delegates ponder a point at a recent AGI workshop that will kick-start a project to develop the teaching of and research into gender studies across Africa.

AS THE first phase of a three-stage project to bolster the teaching of and research in gender studies across Africa, a company of teachers, researchers and activists convened in Cape Town recently to find ways to create networks across national boundaries.

Hosts, the UCT-based African Gender Institute (AGI), will over the next few years head the project, one that was capitalised by a US$482 000 (more than R5-million) award in September 2001 from the Ford Foundation in the United States. The grant will be used to fund a series of training, research and publishing activities that will make up the core of the Strengthening Gender Studies for Social Transformation: An intellectual capacity-building and information technology development project, as it has been named.

The workshop formed the first part of the programme, delegates from around the continent gathering to, among other things, review the institutional, financial and technological conditions within which African gender studies have developed over the past 20 to 30 years; to examine the availability of resources and materials for teaching gender studies in Africa; and to explore the strategic and political relevance of teaching and research in gender studies to governance and policy-making, explained Professor Amina Mama, Chair of Gender Studies at the AGI.

Ahead lies the task of developing the continental network that was proposed at the workshop, publishing the research and survey findings that preceded the meeting, and holding a number of training workshops, noted Mama.

Over the long term, the network will look to develop a core curriculum for faculty all over the continent, and provide research reviews, bibliographies and reviews, and other resources that will support this, she added.

An electronic journal is also in the pipeline.

After three days of discussion and debate, the AGI had achieved much of the objectives it had set for the workshop, said Mama.

"But we also deepened our understanding of these objectives and the diverse socio-political and institutional conditions under which the feminist intellectuals are working in African contexts," she added.

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