The Gender Justice & Reconciliation (GJR) project, housed in the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s (IJR) Building Inclusive Societies (BIS) programme, is a key initiative contributing to gender discourse, empowerment, skills and knowledge, capacity building and engagement in the South African healing and reconciliation space. Evidence shows that deep gender wounds and divides are pervasive throughout South Africa.
These gender wounds and associated trauma serve to further entrench divisions in communities and between individuals, making peace building efforts within the self and community more challenging.
The GJR creates platforms, offers training and gives support for people who are already active in their communities to share knowledge and tools for efficacy through becoming empowered agents of change in their communities and spheres of influence. Without gender justice, attempts at broader justice and reconciliation are incomplete, serving only to uphold traditional patriarchal structural division in society that so often become weaponised to inflict harm.3 Gender injustices, sexual assaults and other violence, abuse, and marginalisation of women, girls and LGBTIQ+ persons perpetuate cycles of harm, and has a potent ability to have traumatic effects for generations to come.
But at IJR, the GJR initiative does not only work with the marginalised or oppressed in safe spaces on topics of gender equality and gender justice. Our interventions purposely go beyond this paradigm of women’s empowerment to include men in our dialogical interventions to talk about masculinity and patriarchy, and how society harms or helps men in framing their identity as it relates to the other – women, girls and LGBTIQ+. This framing serves to focus GJR work at the root of gender and related oppression:
• Structural inequality that is discriminatory and patriarchal must be confronted to enable women and marginalised groups to have independence, exercise options and access justice.
• Internalised ideas of gender, patriarchy, sexism and misogyny need to be surfaced, debated, understood and shifted toward equality so that gender reconciliation within the self and between individuals and groups can occur.
To address these root causes, the GJR Project conducted 20 dialogues in five provinces in South Africa between May 2015 and December 2016 respectively. Based on these dialogues, this report covers:
1. A brief snapshot of the current gender (in) justice context in South Africa.
2. Locating GJR interventions in a theoretical framework that informs our work, design and approach to
dialogue engagement, describing some of the terms used and how they have been operationalised
in our work, grounding this report in the specific contextual meanings created in each discourse and
conversation held by GJR.
3. Methodology, process and participants:
a) reflecting on the thinking behind the approaches deployed as explanatory rationale for
the process informing dialogues
b) Selecting geographies
c) A description of the participants engaged and the rationale for their selection
4. Results and outcomes of dialogical interventions in the three-step process used by GJR. The outcomes
reflected offer a snapshot of the many dialogues and processes undertaken, from each step examples
are given on the outcomes and themes emerged from the dialogues.
5. We conclude our findings by reflecting on lessons learnt, challenges that remain to be overcome and
identifying the next steps.