Gender Equality Today
15 August 2016
The Embassy of Sweden in collaboration with FADA at the University of Johannesburg and the Commission for Gender Equality hosted the opening of the photographic awards Exhibition at the University of Johannesburg campus. The Photo Exhibition is titled “Gender Equality Today”.
The photos on display were the finalists from the contest organized by the Embassy of Sweden at the beginning of this year, a contest that generated more than 250 amazing contributions. The finalists were chosen by an expert panel including representatives from the CGE, the Swedish government and the arts and photography community of South Africa.
Photo: The Winner, Sune de Wet pictured with Neo Ntsoma, photographer and one of the Jury members
In welcoming guests to the Exhibition, Chargé d'Affaires of Sweden, Mrs. Karin Hernmarck-Ahliny said, “This photo exhibition includes photos that are beautiful and powerful in their own right, but we also hope that they will help us in finding ways to discuss, debate and understand both what we have already achieved, and, more importantly, what the challenges are ahead of us, and how we all, jointly, can tackle them.”
Speech by Chargé d'Affaires of Sweden, Mrs. Karin Hernmarck-Ahliny
Commissioner for Gender Equality, ladies, gentlemen, finalists and winner, colleagues and friends:
Welcome to the opening of the Photo Exhibition titled “Gender Equality Today”, co-hosted by the Commission for Gender Equality, the FADA Gallery and the Embassy of Sweden. The photos on display are the finalists from the contest organized by the Embassy at the beginning of this year, a contest that generated more than 250 amazing contributions. The photos we see on the walls here are the finalists chosen by an expert panel including representatives from the CGE, the Swedish government and the arts and photography community of South Africa.
The photo contest’s objective was to find new ways, and South African ways, to illustrate the issue of Gender Equality Today. This is a subject dear to the heart of the Swedish Government which as you may be aware officially declared its intention to pursue a Feminist Foreign Policy and to be a Feminist Government upon taking office in 2014.
About 25 years ago the feminism debate tended to focus on the issue of whether women as a group were essentially different than men as a group, and if it would lead to more peaceful and humane societies if only women were given more power? Or whether women as a group were no different from men as a group in their general propensity towards peace etc., except for the structural limitations bestowed on them by the patriarchy we all live in to various degrees? Is gender inequality based on biology or society, is it because of sex or gender?
Since then the debate has evolved into the discourse of intersectionality, which reasonably recognises that “cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity” to quote the text book.
The gender gap in our societies is still significant, but we have to recognise the revolutionary changes that happened during the 20th century. Things we now should take for granted – voting rights, equal pay, women cabinet members, that rape exists also within marriages, and that divorce is an option – were by no means accepted 100 years ago, or even 50 or in some places not even today. The prospect of a woman president or prime minister would have been considered simply ridiculous.
Patriarchy has been a universal order in human societies at least since the dawn of the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago, even if the particulars of the patriarchal order have differed between societies and times. It is now being challenged as never before, and its pretense of being the only ‘natural’ order has essentially been shattered. Because – you know – gender inequality is not biologically innate in Homo sapiens but a consequence of societal and cultural choices.
This photo exhibition includes photos that are beautiful and powerful in their own right, but we also hope that they will help us in finding ways to discuss, debate and understand both what we have already achieved, and, more importantly, what the challenges are ahead of us, and how we all, jointly, can tackle them.
Embassy of Sweden in South Africa