Gender, Vulnerability & Social Justice

Course Description


Socially constricted social relations between men and women in society can either impede or facilitate vulnerability and the attainment of social justice particularly to disadvantaged members of society such as women. In many cases, socio-cultural strictures, norms and practices assign contrasting roles, responsibilities and unequal rights to men and women to the extent that they enjoy different privileges, power and rights. The roles and responsibilities assigned to men come with more power, privileges and rights (while the men have the right to own key assets such as land, women do not. Many women access and utilise land through marriage or affiliation to the male household head). In turn, the privileges, power and rights dictate that women and men undertake contrasting work, with valuable and productive work, often done by men, remunerated with money. Meanwhile undervalued, (under)unpaid and reproductive work done by women is largely remunerated ‘in the coin of ‘love’ and virtue’ (Fraser, 2016:102). Given that money has become ‘a primary means of power’ in the contemporary period, it means that women who engage in unproductive ‘work are structurally subordinate of the men who earn cash wages (Ibid). Economic power empowers men with the means to dominate and marginalize women. This makes their quest for social justice unattainable.

 Aim: Provide learners with the knowledge to discern that the varied and intricate socio-cultural construction of men and women does not only foster development but also enhances the vulnerability and the quest for social justice by women as men are constructed in a superior manner compared to women.


Equip learners with key concepts related to gender and particularly women including Women in Development (WID) Women and Development (WAD), Women, Environment and Development (WED), Gender and Development (GAD), Women in Development (WID) and Women in Technology (WIT).

Enhance the understanding that gender or social relations between men and women are socially-constructed nature.

Understand the ways in which social and cultural norms and practices, and the ensuing social construction of both men and women increase vulnerability of and stifles the quest for and attainment of social justice for women.

Show the intricate unevenness in society and the power of language and culture in increasing social ills that are against women in society.

Encourage learners to reflect on their own settings and varied cultures in order to understand how their own environments increase vulnerability and injustices which women grapple with in society.

Scope: The course will trace the meaning of gender and how it is a social construction largely shaped and informed by socio-cultural norms, practices and embedded structures. It will also examine the socially constructed roles and responsibilities and ensuing societal expectations; performance of gender identity and related theoretical transitions from WID to WIT; the power of language in the construction and stereotyping the differences between men and women; and the ways in which these differences contribute to economic and cultural inequality, vulnerability and increased injustices against the (socially and culturally constructed) inferior category. Further, it will examine the causes and consequences of varied construction of men and women as well as and gender discrimination; gender related violence; how gender shapes and impacts relationships in private (home) and public (work) places, practical and strategic gender needs of women.

References and Readings

-Amrita Chhachi and Thanh Dam (2009). Gender, Poverty and Social Justice: Working Paper No 482, International Institute of Social Studies.

-UN, (2010). Achieving Gender Equality, women’s Empowerment and Strengthening Development Cooperation: Dialogues at Economic and Social Council, New york.

-Eric palmer, (1sted). (2017). Gender Justice and Development: Vulnerability and Empowerment, Volume II, Routledge.

-Katie Oliviero (2018). Vulnerability Politics: The Users and Abuse of Precarity in Political Debate, NYU press.

-Alison M Jagger (2009). Transnational cycles of Gendered vulnerability: A prologue to a Theory of Global Gender Justice Philosophical Topics, Global Gender Justice, Volume 37, No 2 Pp33-52.

-Jocely A Hollander (2002). Resisting Vulnerability: The Social Reconstruction of Gender in Interaction, Social Problem, Oxford University Press, Volume 49, No 4 pp 474-496.  

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