Class and Gender Reflection

A reflection on Class and Gender from a traditional / ethnic background by: Gender: I grew up surrounded by powerful women: Three older sisters who decided what I would wear and which games we would play. A mother and two aunties, who held positions of power as teachers. My dad was a passive person and therefore was ruled by the women in our household. So at my young age, “Gender” was protection for my dad! My first exposure to gender outside of my household was in the media, with the feminist movement. I then realized that my home was an exception and that globally, women were being treated as if they were inferior to men.But another realization came to me: In the western world, women were fighting for independence, whereas in traditional societies, women were (and are still) fighting for family unity. A priest once told me: The woman is the pillar of her household. In the 70s in Mauritius, the feminist movement started with the boom in the economy. Suddenly, housewives went to work in mass in factories and this caused a significant change in the family dynamics in two ways: • No longer were men the sole bread winners in the family; and Children were coming home from school without a parent being home. With regards to Africa, a significant component of humanitarian aid has gone towards the empowerment of African women, like helping them to build income generating activities. However, no work has been done in parallel with the men. So men of traditional societies suddenly found themselves less educated than their wives, and becoming reliant on their wives for income support. This loss in status without any opportunity to express themselves, have caused some men to turn violent towards their wives.More and more now, humanitarian agencies are making sure that all community members participate in the process of project to ensure that the men are not left “behind”. Class: Growing up, it was clear that there was (and that there still is) a social class system in Mauritius, even if it was not openly acknowledged. There is clear divide in terms of 1) wealth, 2) education, 3) skin colour and even 4) your name. And this class structure is maintained by the political and economic system, because they benefit from it. Politicians can more easily pull the wool over the eyes of the population, if the latter is uneducated.In Australia, it seemed that there was no class division in society – I now know that this is not true. Twelve years ago, I moved back to Mauritius and chose to live in a small coastal village where the majority of the people are poor. My city friends could not relate to my new friends from the village. There were many differences between the two groups: education, beliefs, methods of worship, standard of living, health and hygiene (amongst many others) and neither group could openly and clearly communicate with each other and therefore would struggle to understand the actions of the other.People from a different social class have a different culture: they have a different way of looking at things. For example, Cambodians like eating grilled cockroaches, while we Mauritians make it our purpose to exterminate them. And this reminds me of one of my favourite quote – “Le respect de la difference de l’autre est a la base de l’humanite” – which literally translate to – respect for the difference in others is at the core of our humanity.

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