Abstract: Proverbs and Gender: Studying the Interface between Proverbs and Gender Relations (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

664P Proverbs and Gender: Studying the Interface between Proverbs and Gender Relations

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Miriam Kuttikat, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background: Proverb, the shortest form of cultural expression and wisdom tradition, plays a significant role in most of the traditional societies. Exploring proverbs in a particular socio- cultural context is the gateway to understand the perceptions of people in a given society. The main study objective is to analyze certain proverbs that are collected through Community Based Participatory Research from Sri Lankan Tamil refugee’s Trichy region camp in India. The primary objective of this study is to understand how proverbs reflects refugees' perception about the other gender in a particular socio-cultural context.

Methods: This exploratory, qualitative study utilized a grounded theory approach to recognize direct experiences and insights of the participants on gender relations. We conducted this research in collaboration with the Organization for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation. The presenter and a team of health workers conducted semi-structured interviews with 120 families (120 parents and 120 adolescents).. Participants were selected using stratified purposive sampling techniques. Inclusion criteria for study participation were: 1) Sri Lankan refugee status; 2) Tamil ethnicity; 3) participation of one parent-youth dyad in the family; and 4) youth must have been between 13 and 18 years of age at the time of data collection. Informed consent received from each participant. Interviews were conducted in the OfERR office based on convenience of the participants. Each parent and adolescent interviewed separately in different rooms. An interview guide was used and included open-ended questions and prompts related to the proverbs used in their community, and the connection of proverbs with gender roles and relationships in the camp.

Results: The presenter used content analysis and thematic analysis to reach four overarching categories which elucidate proverbial communication and gender relations: expectations for raising a good son/daughter; rules for having a good family; family control and responsiveness; family communication and cohesion. The study results identified proverbs have four extensive functions: 1) let people from certain gender escape from repressions imposed upon them by society; 2) validates culture, justifying its rituals and institutions to those who perform and observe them, mainly women; 3) a pedagogic device which reinforces morals and values on woman; 4) a means of applying social pressure and exercising social control on women.

Conclusion: Proverbs plays a significant role in the construction of gender and also serves as a medium of transmission from generation to generation. The studied region is patriarchal society and there are number of proverbs reflecting the folk perception on gender. Our study showed that proverbs are very much spontaneous and depended heavily on the family context and family interactions, and socio-cultural context and interrelationships. The proverbs used by the study participants became a tool of parent-youth communication which helped to understand and maintain the cultural construction of a Sri Lankan refugee family, justified the gender roles, reinforced by the parental perceptions behind these practices and applied men’s control towards women to follow these practices across generations. The implications of the study results are to develop and implement interventions to ensure culture specific, gender equal, collective interdependent family relationships.