Gender and participation: critical reflection on Zenzeleni Networks in Mankosi, South Africa
Hussen, Tigist Shewarega
Bidwell, Nicola J.
Tucker, William David
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This paper unveils the complexity of gender dynamics by reflecting on lessons learned in Zenzeleni Networks and provides a different perspective to notions of “participation” by asking “who participates and how?” The paper employs a feminist conceptual framework, particularly social constructionist theory and intersectionality, to understand women’s participation and experience, analyzing multi-layered and intersecting structural injustices that marginalize women’s choices, empowerment, scope for agency, and sense of ownership. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions gathered information from women living in Mankosi and women who are working for Zenzeleni Networks, respectively. Results show that gendered power dynamics of the community were reproduced within Zenzeleni Networks. Although women play a key role in the everyday operationalization of Zenzeleni Networks, their role has been considered part of their domestic duties, which results in misrecognition and underrepresentation of their work.