Use of Time-An Indicator for Women's Spaces in the Rural Sudan

By Knuth, Hardine | Ahfad Journal, June 2006 | Go to article overview
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Use of Time-An Indicator for Women's Spaces in the Rural Sudan


Knuth, Hardine, Ahfad Journal


Abstract

The study aims at revealing women's spaces by the time dimension. Decisively by analysing the use of time opportunities and limitations as well as influences on women's scopes of action are visualized. It becomes clear that the structural dimension of time is closely connected with spatial, economical and cultural structures that govern the daily lives. The temporal aspects of women's lives in Al Gharaza are analysed in regard to labour, keeping households, raising children, leisure time, temporal orientation over the course of the day, the relative importance attributed to time, and economical requirements. By including the analysis of the time dimension into the sociological research it becomes possible to gain insights into the fields and scopes of action of the women in Al Gharaza through their subjective perception. The article opens up further research questions in regard to time culture, time consciousness, and the interdependence of (spatio-)temporal and gender structures.

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1. Aim

This study aimed at revealing women's spaces by the time dimension. Decisively by analysing the use of time1 opportunities and limitations as well as influences on women's scopes of action should be visualized. The area of interest, however, also promised insights into the time treatment (2) and the individual time experience (3). In the context of women's studies in the Sudan such research has not been carried out before. Regarding Sudanese children, however, there is a study on this subject: Shakak (2000) researched 10-14 year old girls' and boys' gender differences in the division of labour, use of time and limitations to free space.

For the author (European, ergonomist and managerial economist in the agricultural sector) this subject area meant a new scientific challenge.

2. Methodology

The research was embedded in a broader sociological study about women's spaces in the rural Sudan in the case of the village Al Gharaza (2002/2003). The village is located about 20 km south of the capital Khartoum and the lives of the villagers are closely linked to the district Omdurman, mainly due to its function as working and shopping area, education and school area as well as the home of relatives.

As methods we applied semi-structured individual interviews as well as group discussions with separated women and men groups respectively. The interview guide for the individual interviews concentrated on three complexes: (1) demographic household data, (2) overview of activities and actors, and (3) space and time. The interviews and discussion moderations were carried out by Sudanese scientists in Arabic and immediately translated to German by a native speaker of Arabic.

In Al Gharaza the sun rises at about 6:30 a.m. and sets around 6.30 p.m. The official (state-run) calculation of time in the Sudan is based on the Gregorian calendar, while the Islamic (Muslim) lunar calendar determines the daily course of the Muslims.

In the households of Al Gharaza the daily course begins with the adhan's call to the Morning Prayer. Since the time scaling in the course of the day of the Muslim population in the Sudan is closely linked to the five Muslim (4) prayer times, it seemed methodologically reasonable to structure the analysis of the use of time also by these firmly established time spans of the daily life (fig. 1). During winter (November to March) the muezzin calls to prayer around 5:00, 12:30, 3:30, 6:30 and 7:30, during summer (April to October) about half an hour later. The time spans between the time markers carry characteristic notations in the population (table 1).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The following results derive from individual interviews with three housewives (5), conducted at their homes, two woman farm hands after work immediately on the field, and from a group discussion with 18 women in November 2002.

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