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Journal for the Study of Religion

On-line version ISSN 2413-3027
Print version ISSN 1011-7601


JARVIS, Janet. Reflections on gender identity in a safe space for transforming classroom praxis. J. Study Relig. [online]. 2014, vol.27, n.1, pp.169-191. ISSN 2413-3027.

Why, nearly two decades into a new political democratic dispensation, with a well-established constitution and legal system, is gender inequality still perpetuated? The education of learners in this regard has been identified as critical. Teaching-learning of gender equality could be challenging for teachers who have not reflected on their own gender identity.This article focuses on the findings of a recent empirical study which explored the lived experiences of patriarchy of selected female teachers situated in four provinces in South Africa. The findings show that the participating teachers' gender identity is shaped by their religious and cultural discourses. Working within a feminist paradigm, narrative inquiry was employed as the research methodology. Creating a safe space, the opportunity was provided to hear the teachers' voices in response to the master narrative of patriarchy. Sharing their self-narrative both with an internal audience (in their 'society-of-mind') and with an external audience allowed them to reclaim themselves as they discovered the extent to which it is possible to become disentangled from their 'other' (men). This process initiated self-empowerment of the teachers and contributed to building 'identity capital' as they reflected on their gender identity, adopting a 'counter-position' to patriarchy. Increased extent and strength of 'gender identity capital', enabling the articulation of gender identity transformation in every domain of their lives, personal, social and professional, holds the possibility of developing teachers' classroom practice into classroom praxis. Effective teaching-learning about gender equality has the potential of informing the development of female and male learners and to be transformative for South African society.

Keywords : gender equality; classroom praxis; teacher identity; 'identity capital'; self-narrative; self-dialogue.

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