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Prof Kalpana Hiralal

AfOx-ODID Senior Visiting Fellow

Kalpana Hiralal is a Professor of History in the School of Social Sciences at Howard College at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate-level modules on global history, women, gender, and politics.

She has been the recipient of several research grants and scholarship awards, in particular an Inspire Erasmus Staff Scholarship (2017) and, most recently, a Senior AfOx-ODID Visiting Fellowship, University of Oxford.

Her PhD dissertation focuses on the South Asian diaspora to Africa in the context of gender and mobility. A South African National Research Foundation-rated researcher, her two key areas of interest are: gender and the South Asian diaspora; and women in the anti-apartheid struggle.

Her most recent publications are: 'Pioneers of Satyagraha: Indian South Africans Defy Racist Laws 1907-1914' (Navajivan 2017) (co-author) and Gender and Mobility: Borders, Bodies and Boundaries, Palgrave 2018 (co-author).

Research at ODID

The struggle for gender equality on South Africa’s road to democracy

This study critically examines women’s struggles for gender equality in South Africa. It examines the role women played in challenging colonial and apartheid governments and how those historical origins affected their position in the post-apartheid state. I argue that during the liberation movement, gender and women’s issues were relegated to the periphery, in support of nationalist goals. In short, national freedom was achieved at the cost of women's subordination. In South Africa, women’s defiant and militant stance against discriminatory laws alerted mainstream liberation organisations that women were a viable political constituency. Gender issues were discussed and deliberated upon in the nationalistic discourse, and it rose alongside nationalist movements in the form of anticolonial and anti-apartheid resistance. However, nationalist interests eclipsed women's issues. The mantra was that gender equality would follow liberation. However, after 25 years of democracy, the few gains that were made in the early years following 1994 have been gradually weakened, largely due to a lack of political will and the absence of a collective national women’s movement.

Kalpana Hiralal
Research interests:

South Asian diaspora, gender, mobility, women, anti-apartheid struggle