Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

Gender, Science and Technology


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The social struggles for equality between men and women are a contemporary topical issue. Thanks to a powerful emancipation movement, women , who have long been relegated to inferior social positions are now progressively breaking the barriers that had branded them as subordinate persons. it is gratifying to note that the age-old beliefs in men’s superiority over women are being vehemently contested today; the actions of NGOs and civil society activists have succeeded in putting the issue of equal rights for men and women firmly on the African agenda. In this connection, particular attention has been paid to the unequal access to education as one of the main causes of the inequalities between men and women and the important role which access to all levels of schooling can play in expanding and enhancing the involvement of women in public affairs. however, behind the entire quest for improving girls’ access to education lies one of the last existing bastions and instruments of power, namely, the control of science and technology. It is a domain that is overwhelmingly male dominated. And yet, few ill disagree that the full participation of women in the development and application of science and technology is critical to the socio-economic development of African countries.

Science ant technology, which are the indisputable foundations of political and economic power in our modern world, are still marked by various layers and dimensions of deep-seared gender inequality that works mostly to the disadvantage of women. Women’s exclusion, paradoxically enough, starts form the early phase of their education, when feminine identities are defined in the manner which, overall, tends to reproduce the ideology of domesticity among girls and encourage a rejection of science and technology. This translated into stereotypes and result in women being kept away from scientific positions and denied technical jobs. Further, the accumulated experiences and knowledge of women are excluded and, as a consequence, do not feature in the human scientific patrimony; almost by instinct, women are not considered to be capable of creating science and technology and as a consequence are reduced to the role of passive recipients, even helpless victims. Thus, while it may be true that some of the historic advances that have been recorded in science and technology would seem to have been empowering to women in certain domains, the logic of domesticity within which much of these advantages have occurred has, in fact, tended to be disempowering even as the gulf between men and women in the field of science and technology continues to widen. Still, for all the obstacles that they experience, women have never ceased devising clever and ingenious combinations to enable them to master things, most of the times away from the lime light of official science.

Participants in the 2003 Gender Institute will be invited to explore three main aspects of the following multidimensional relationship: gender, science and technology. Within this relationship, it is proposed that attention should be paid to the ways in which the various forms of the socialization of young girls in Africa induce unequal access to science ant technology. The questions which arise are legion: How can early gender education be transformed into an instrument of equity between men and women in the field of science and technology? Is a purely feminine conception of science and technology possible and/or desirable? How has the interaction between old and new feminine identities contributed to shaping the professional options and the social positions and roles of women in households, as well as in the political and religious organisations? In what ways does the exclusion of women’s knowledge and collective experience impact on the progress of society as a whole? What examples of the dialectic of the empowerment and disempowerment of women through the intermediation of science and technology can we point to and what explains the balance? What are the challenges of making science and technology more gender-sensitive?

December 28 2009