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South Asian Immigrant Women Conceptualizing Gender Roles in the Context of Family and Society in Southwestern Ontario
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Perceptions of gender roles vary in different cultures, influenced by social location and time. Migration to countries that promote liberal values can impact how men and women perceive their gender roles, their interpersonal relationships with family members, and their day to day activities. Informed by a postcolonial-feminist theoretical perspective, this qualitative study aimed to understand South Asian immigrant women’s perceptions about gender roles in the context of family and society, prior to migration, and after immigration to Canada. A unique aspect of this study is that it explored how participants negotiated their gender roles and identity and exercised their agency prior to migration and post immigration. Four major themes emerged in response to the interview questions: 1) immigration and resettlement challenges; 2) gender roles and a patriarchal society in the native country; 3) perceptions of gender role/women’s role in the Canadian society; and 4) negotiating of gender roles, agency and empowerment. The results of the study indicate that immigration experiences were diverse and should be analyzed through many intersecting lenses including gender, class, social status, and education level to highlight unique challenges experienced by women as opposed to a monolithic representation of women from the East. The study contributes to the literature on South Asian immigrant women by using an interpretation that is based on the knowledge produced by the participants, and by acknowledging their voices as a central focus. Women in this study show that they are agents of change and are not weak and voiceless as depicted through Western discourses.