Third World Planning Review

Westernisation of gender roles in house construction in Botswana

Third World Planning Review (2001), 23, (3), 301–322.

Abstract

Women in Botswana and other sedentary pastoral communities in Africa have traditionally been house-builders. However, recent studies and census reports indicate that house construction—especially of modern buildings—has become a ‘man's job’, in that women are absent or grossly under-represented at construction sites. Those women who are employed in the construction industry have badly-paid, unskilled and peripheral jobs such as cleaning, mixing concrete and cooking. While some scholars have attributed this male appropriation of female roles to the transfer of housing from the female domestic sphere to the male public sphere, this paper uses Westernisation theory to account for the changes. With the introduction of Western socioeconomic, political and institutional systems, gender roles have tended to become more European than African. The paper shows that through the widespread adoption in Lobatse, Botswana, of Western building processes, skills, house designs and materials, African women have lost their central roles as architects and builders and have assumed new roles as labourers, as well as managers and supervisors in self-help housing construction. Women's new roles are, however, often ignored in census records and policy documents.

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Kalabamu, Faustin