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PHD Gender Studies, South African Woman

As a woman from South Africa, I want to dedicate my life to the improvement of the image of African Women. I am deeply troubled by stereotypes of women in Africa, generally speaking, and South Africa in particular. African women are not oppressed and downtrodden, especially not by nature. I want to be part of a new generation of image makers in my country who will portray our women and engaged in a great struggle to improve the lives of themselves and their children. We want to promote the African women accurately, set in the complex contexts where she finds herself, as a woman who struggles for and subsequently deserves her full dignity as a human being. On paper, women in South Africa have some of the most progressive protections in the world. In reality, however, many if not most South African women struggle against a brutally patriarchal culture that includes elements not only of sexism, racism, and discrimination and repression based on sexual orientation, but other, complex, related forms of discrimination: all of which I seek to explore in your program. 

I first developed the dream of earning the PHD in Gender studies in 2010 when I was completing my Honors degree. My dedication to this goal is fueled by my desire to better myself academically and improve my career prospects. Most of all, however, I am driven by my sheer passion for the subject of gender in the context of Africa. XXXX University has become the center of my world as I have progressed through my Master’s Program in African Studies and I hope very much to continue my studies on the same campus. I have developed a special focus on Language Planning Policy in South Africa and I plan to defend my thesis this coming March of 2013. As an African woman, I want to help contribute our voice in the area of gender issues in a global context. Like any developing country, South Africa is overwhelmed by socio-economic problems derived from a generalized, grueling poverty, unjust and inadequate distribution of resources, corruption, and political nepotism that stifles development and has especially drastic consequences for women and children.

I am an experienced researcher who has done extensive work in the area of have done my research on Virginity Testing Cultures (VTC). I consider myself to be one of the leading investigators concerned with the way that women and girls find themselves caught up in a struggle between traditionalists, on the one hand, and modernists on the other. While the traditionalists argue that virginity testing through the use of cultures helps to protect our girls, modernists have declared it to be not only unhygienic but, more importantly, a fundamental violation of the human rights of children. The modernists interpret the Children’s Bill of Rights Chapter 3: Section 5 (a) as protecting children from being subjected to VTC. On the other hand, the Constitution (1996), Chapter 2: Section 31a & b, gives South Africans the right to form, revive and restore cultures such as VTC. Very little research has taken place on this issue.  As I continue to investigate this highly controversial issue in my country, as well as other parts of the Developing World, I hope to find avenues for negotiations and to raise consciousness concerning the human rights issues involved in the use of VTC. I very much appreciate the interdisciplinary approach of your department at IU; your program would greatly enhance my understanding of the theories and strategies used to address gender issues in progressive ways, especially as a result of the study of real-life realities through case studies from cultures worldwide, and with the use of a variety of social scientific paradigms and tools. I am convinced that by earning the PHD in Gender Studies in your distinguished program, that I will be able me to make important contributions to the struggle of African women to be free.

The South African Domestic Violence Act 1998 (DVA) is perhaps the most expansive legislation in the world regarding domestic violence. For once, domestic violence is just that, any violence that occurs in a private space between people who know each other. The DVA vastly expands the definition of violence to cover physical, verbal, emotional, economic, sexual and psychological abuse. While women have extensive protections on paper, however, the government is only talk and no action. The tragic reality is that both poverty and violence against women have increased steadily since the end of Apartheid. On top of this, women are now also bearing the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Rights that exist on paper are overrun by increasing violence, poverty and disease.

My reason for applying to XXXX University is that it is an international center for research and education with a time-honored history and the faculty of the Gender Studies Department is world renown. I very much want to continue to take advantage of XU’s powerful pedagogical resources, and vibrant intellectual atmosphere at the same time that I am fully immersed in your comprehensive curriculum. Your program will provide me with the optimal preparation of which I have dreamed, to return to South Africa will a fuller understanding of the nature of power at the grassroots level, and the courage to fight to protect our women and girls from violence, invasion, and indignity.

You program has a special focus on developmental problems particularly issues dealing with gender inequalities and social issues arising from ethnicity and economic class. You program will develop my understanding of gender and development in a global context and provide me with a solid grounding in research in development as well as gender studies. I hunger for intellectual rigor that which will best enable to struggle on behalf of those that I have promised to serve. I thank you for considering my application to your program.

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