Sunday, October 09, 2011

Some reflections on gender

At the moment I'm preparing a presentation for a workshop and the launch of a report on gender equality and development which we're hosting with the World Bank next week.  This should be interesting and details of the findings that my colleagues worked on at the beginning of the year make for interesting findings.  Granted, the fieldwork was collected in Rafah (Gaza) and Hebron, perhaps the most socially conservative part of the West Bank.  But both have to reflect Palestinian society to some degree.

So it seems that despite a narrowing of the gender gap in terms of female educational enrollment (at all levels) and legislation and rights for women, that gender roles still dominate Palestinian society.  Following education, the gender gap widens as men take on the bulk of productive/paid employment responsibilities and women the reproductive roles of wife and mother.  If she works she's expected to do it alongside her 'primary' commitments.  What I find really interesting is the suggestion by the report author that this gendered task separation is structured: given the limited scope of social protection provided by the Palestinian Authority and the fact that nearly half the Palestinian population is either under 15 years old (the legal age for working) or over 65 years (retirement age), this means that the burden of income and care fall heavily on the 50% of the population who are of working age.

What's also notable about the findings is the extent to which gender roles transcend age.  In fact the younger cohorts (adolescents and youths) appear to he more set in their ways about them compared to the adult groups that were studied.  This is going to mean that the standard suggestion (should I be asked how these differences might be broken down) may not work: Usually people resort to the idea of education as the answer.  But if anything, young people's views show the extent to which education in this case (i.e. gender roles) is a socialisation process of prevailing norms and culture rather than a change process.

Or perhaps I'm being overly dramatic and static in my thinking?  After all, this Palestinian study is a contribution to the World Bank's 2012 World Development Report which looks at both women's economic opportunities as well as changing assumptions and trends relating to gender.

No comments: