The word social institution usually refers to a separate group sect such as family, school, religion, law, media, and economy organized to meet the basic needs of society. Social institutions exist to serve society well. These are combinations of norms, roles, and values within certain types of social structures (Mnguni, 2000). According to H. E Barnes, social institutions are “social structures and machines by which human society organizes, directs and carries out numerous activities necessary to society for human need’’ (Wani, 2017). They are of great importance in the socialization process and promote healthy social relationships. Society has different ideas and expectations about how women and men should carry themselves, and this has led to unequal gender relations or gender inequality. These roles are created and reinforced in various ways by various social institutions such as family, school, religion, law, and mass media.
The concept of being a boy or a girl is learned by the family at a very young age. Children learn and behave from their parents according to their gender. The division of labor at the family level, in which parents encourage their children to take their share of the work, often creates and reinforces gender inequality. For instance, playing with dolls and doing chores are associated with girls, while playing with cars and doing sports are given to boys. The Bible encourages people to adhere to certain gender roles defined in certain scriptures. Religions all over the world encourage people to follow certain gender roles. For example, women are shown as helping men and housewives and do not have a say. Young women are taught in mosques and synagogues to submit themselves to men and that men are providers. There are also certain gender-specific and male-only roles in the church or mosque. All these practices reinforce unequal gender roles in our religions, are prejudiced against how women are treated, and cause them to feel inadequate. In addition, schools reinforce gender roles in society through the way they deal with formal education. Girls and boys are discouraged from studying certain subjects because they are gender specific. For example, girls are less likely to take classes like physics and mathematics because they belong to boys, and therefore determine and influence the type of careers girls can pursue.
As a result, different social institutions produce and reinforce unequal gender relations in diverse ways. Though some of these persist, others have changed due to gender equality reforms, agencies, and initiatives. There has been some degree of gender equality in the education sector, with policies and initiatives such as girls’ education policies, scholarship schemes, and lower entry-level qualifications enabling more girls to go to school. Furthermore, as industrialization has grown, we have seen a greater presence of women in certain occupations and decision-making processes. Finally, from a political and religious perspective, women appear to occupy certain leadership positions in our governments and churches.