Research on Gender Reconciliation

In partnership with GERI, GenderWorks developed a formal research initiative with the University of the Free State (UFS) in 2015. This one-year research project was initiated by globally-renowned expert on trauma, memory and forgiveness, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, and explores the dynamics of the transformation of harmful gender scripts which is initiated by Gender Reconciliation workshops. The project also assesses the impacts and efficacy of the Gender Reconciliation programme over time through a focused monitoring and evaluation process.

Twenty-five students at UFS participated in the research project over a period of nine months. “It is truly a privilege to witness the spirit of change that the students are embracing, and the level of maturity and commitment through which they are approaching this work,” said chief researcher on the project, Dr. Samantha van Schalkwyk. The project examines the intricate dynamics involved in transforming patriarchal ideologies, applying the Gender Reconciliation methodology. Extensive data was gathered in two initial workshops conducted by certified GERI facilitators, plus monthly follow-up sessions overseen by Dr. van Schalkwyk. “The data is really very rich, and we already have important themes jumping out at us,” she said. The first scholarly journal articles from this research were presented by Dr. van Schalkwyk at the Third International Conference on Advances in Women Studies in Buffalo, New York in July 2016.

Initial findings of the research showed two primary outcomes: that Gender Reconciliation transforms hegemonic masculinities among men, and another is that it transforms the underlying gender ideologies between women and men. The research has since been relocated to Stellenbosch University where Prof. Gobodo-Madikizela and Dr. van Schalkwyk are now based, and falls within the broader Gender Research Initiative at the research unit Historical Trauma & Transformation Studies at Stellenbosch University. The Gender Reconciliation research is one of the projects in the broader Gender Initiative – a research stream that focuses on gender-based violence and disrupting patriarchy in the African context.

It is quite fitting that Prof. Gobodo-Madikizela is supervising and fully supportive of this important work of reconciling and healing the gender divide. Among her extensive and impressive accolades, Prof. Gobodo-Madikizela served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa as the lead clinical psychologist responsible for coordinating the victims’ public testimonies and mediating between the family members of victims of gross human rights violations and perpetrators of these abuses of the Apartheid era.

One student had this to say about the Gender Reconciliation intervention that informed the research project: “Today I woke up; reconstructed, restored, transformed and liberated more than ever and truly more emancipated in terms of my gender & sexuality. I woke up…with my faith and hope reformed that there’s still a chance for me to prosper because a part of me has healed from the wounds I carried daily… I now believe more than ever that the society I reside in still has a chance to work towards peace and mutual healing for all”. As GenderWorks, we are excited for what further findings the research will reveal.

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