Day 1: South Africa in Context

Activity 3: The broad context: Dynamics and forces at play

Day 1: South Africa in Context

Activity 3: The broad context: Dynamics and forces at play

2 hours 30 minutes

  • 1 hour 30 minutes (Task 1 – group analysis and presentation preparation)
  • 1 hour (Task 2 – market stalls presentations and group refining)

Aims | To help us to: 

  • Analyse dynamics and forces operating in different spheres of society, extending and deepening our critical reflection skills.
  • Identify the difficulties as well as the opportunities in this current context.

Task 1
Group work: What is happening in different spheres of our society?

1 hour 30 mins

In assigned groups, read these guidelines in the group before you begin.

You have an hour to use the framework and questions below to analyse the dynamics and forces at play in different spheres of our South African society, and how they are affecting the lives and agency of women and other oppressed social groups, either positively or negatively. The spheres are the political, popular/people, economic and social.

Work through the spheres and the nine questions below systematically. Keep to the time guidelines below to keep momentum! You will need a timekeeper to keep pace as you need to complete both Part 1 and Part 2 of the questions below within the 1 hour 30 minutes.  Prepare your group’s agreed answers as a flipchart presentation. Number the question that you are answering clearly and for this session you don’t need to be artistic, just use clearly presented text for your answers.

IMPORTANT: Choose one person who will have 5 minutes to present your group’s report as they will run your Context Market Stall for your group and will present to other groups that pass through the Market. This Fellow will need to lead on the write-up of the presentation, to be confident that the answers written up are clear to them:

Part 1

The spheres and their current impact on women and other oppressed groups

30 minutes

After settling in and reading what this task is about for 10 minutes, allow yourselves a maximum of five minutes for each of the four questions below to brainstorm and make notes of your answers. This is descriptive work, so should move quickly:

SPHERE 1: Big politics (the formal political sphere) – the big political sphere of government, parliament, political parties, courts, formal institutions, the media, relations between government and business, etc.

Question 1: Name two to three major government policies, laws, institutions or decision makers that are currently affecting women and other oppressed social groups in your context, and the pros and cons.
SPHERE 2: People’s politics, popular struggles and initiatives – i.e., collective action undertaken by ordinary people whether it is organised or not organised, sustained or not sustained, short-term or long-term: protests, clean-up campaigns, youth clubs, support groups, prayer circles, soup kitchens, other community initiatives, struggles and movements, etc.

Question 2: Starting with women’s action, describe the state of, current activities by, challenges facing, victories of, and lessons, organising, initiatives, and struggles. Name them and the pros and cons. Then do the same with those of other oppressed social groups that you can think about. Name them and the pros and cons?

What major actions, struggles, initiatives or campaigns of ordinary people have taken place or are continuing? What drives these? What impact do they have and what are the pros and cons?

SPHERE 3: Economic sphere – i.e., the economic sphere: factories, mines, shops, banks, malls, workers, the informal economy, the self-employed, the unemployed, global aspects of the economy, daily reports on the economy, economic growth, etc.

Question 3: Name two to three major powerful economic dynamics and actors (behaviour and agendas of companies/employers and businesses, banks, investors, treatment of workers, types of work and wages, etc.), that are currently affecting the well-being of women’s and other social groups, etc. Pros and cons?
SPHERE 4: Social sphere (ekuhlaleni) – somewhat outside big politics (even though it is obviously affected by “big politics”, the economy and so on): i.e. social life as it happens in the so-called zone of social reproduction (the township, the informal settlement, the village, the peri-urban area, the inner city, suburbs, farms and other such areas where ordinary people are) – may include belief systems, social norms, struggles, dynamics and phenomena occurring at the individual level in families and households, in neighbourhoods, in communities, etc.

Question 4: Name the major dynamics and forces that affect women and other social groups in the zone of social reproduction – in other words, what are the major things happening in townships, informal settlements, villages, etc. that affect women and other oppressed social groups? Pros and cons?

Part 2

Analysis of these forces and dynamics

60 minutes

Now it’s time for analysis!  Allow yourselves a maximum of 10 minutes for each of these next 5 questions for brainstorming and making notes towards your presentation. You will then have 10 minutes to finalise your presentation:

Question 5: In what ways does your group’s analysis of these current moments in each sphere mirror or show similarities with what’s happening in your own individual lives? Give two or three examples.
Question 6: What a re there ways in which these forces and dynamics are operating to oppress women’s lives, activism and security (e.g. their emotional and physical health, their economic autonomy and survival, their political participation and leadership, their personal sense of self-worth and security, etc.)?
Question 7: How are these forces and dynamics working to challenge and transform oppression / social injustice?
Question 8: Based on your overall analysis, what are the principal challenges and opportunities that this context offers you in your efforts to build more equal and just societies and relationships?
Question 9: Who are the principal allies and forces supportive of women, gender equality, different women’s rights struggles and social justice broadly? Which groups are actively opposed? And are there any who could be allies even if not at the moment?

Remember that your group presenter will have 5 minutes to present your group’s analysis.

Task 2
Market Place group work: Analysing critically together

1 hour (includes 20 mins at 2 stalls plus 20 mins back in own group)

Each group will set up their market stall in an assigned area of the room. Their elected presenter will run their stall and present the group’s poster. Others who are not reporting will leave their group and, guided by the facilitator, will visit two other market stalls for 20 minutes at a time:

  • Report presentation by each market stall host – 5 minutes
  • Discussion and questions – 10 minutes
  • Wrapping up – 5 minutes

The task for visitors at market stalls is to listen carefully and critically to the reports from each station. After the max 5 minute report, you will debate this analysis and ask questions of your host, to enrich our collective understanding and analysis of the context. The hosts will also listen carefully and critically, taking notes to strengthen their report and for feedback to their original group.

A time-keeper from the facilitation team will be posted at each market stall during presentations. They will alert the group ahead of and at the different time intervals above.

Two rounds of visits to other market stalls will be done. Then Fellows will return to their original groups and will have a group reflection based on the discussions that arose on the market stalls walkabout. Any member of the group can kick off what they learned from other market stalls, by way of additions, questions and critiques of this group’s original presentation. The group’s presenter will also contribute the feedback that they received.

In the last 20 minutes back in original groups, the group will prepare a short synthesis to contribute in the next activity plenary discussion. The presenter can be changed at this point if the group agrees to share the load!