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08 April 2021 | Story Nonsindiso Qwabe | Photo Sonia SMall

How has COVID-19 further widened the gender inequality gap in the workplace?

This was the central question addressed during the first instalment of a webinar series on Gender and Social Justice hosted by the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice at the University of the Free State (UFS). The webinar, which was hosted on the UFS Qwaqwa Campus on 29 March 2021, featured Prof Pearl Sithole, Qwaqwa Campus Vice-Principal: Academic and Research; Advocate Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale, Commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE); and Tholo Motaung, skills trainer, moderator, and gender activist at the Vaal University of Technology as panellists. 

Prof Sithole said COVID-19 revealed the disparity that still exists between men and women in the workplace. “COVID-19 has been the magnifier. We’ve modernised quite a lot, but we’re still unequal in terms of gender. Why are we not progressing in terms of women moving forward towards equality when there has been so much progressive thinking in the political space, social justice space, as well as in the kind of feminism we have had in academia? Why are we actually not winning the battle of just regarding each other as equals?” 

Women hardest hit by COVID-19 lockdown

Advocate Sepanya-Mogale said the lockdown revealed the gender gap mostly through the significant impact it has had on South African women.

In 2020, 34% of the country’s workforce comprised women – a sharp decline of 9,8% from 43,8% in 2018.
“This decline is alarming and a clear indication of who becomes the first victims, but that is hardly talked about. A lot of women have experienced resistance from industries they had been serving diligently,” she said. She said women were often faced with the burden of integrating their work with increased care responsibilities for their children and sometimes also the elderly as primary caregivers. The double responsibility placed on women continues to re-enforce gender roles in our societies and further pushes away the success of closing the gap on gender equality prospects in our society.

Advocate Sepanya-Mogale said women were the hardest hit in most industries. In the beauty and tourism industry; air transportation; informal trading; and healthcare sector to name a few, women bore the brunt the most. “Women are the biggest employees on all economic levels in South Africa, especially the low-income and unskilled levels,” she said.
She said as the spread of the virus was likely to continue disrupting economic activity, all sectors of society needed to get involved and play their part.

“As disease outbreaks are not likely to disappear in the near future, proactive international action is required to not only save lives but to also protect economic prosperity. Academic institutions are authorities in terms of opening up new discussions, leading new debates, and putting critical issues at the centre of the table. Let us all do what we can so that we empower our people relevantly for the times we’re living in.”

News Archive

Mpofu-Walsh inspires with music, word, and wisdom
2017-08-22

Description: TEDxUFS   Tags: TEDxUFS

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh shared with the audience the
creative process of writing a song at the 2017
TEDxUFS conference.
Photo: Voxomnia

“Sometimes it’s the parts of us that give us the most agony, the parts of us that we think we need to change to conform to other people’s expectations, which are actually the gateways which allow us to make an impact in the world.”

This encouragement from Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh was one of the highlights of the 2017 TEDxUFS conference. According to the author, musician, and activist, we should embrace every part of ourselves. We should understand that the way in which each of us can change the world, is by becoming one with all the different parts of us which people think can’t come together.

Audience hears project for first time

For the first time ever, Sizwe shared material from his project Democracy and delusionwith an audience at the 4th annual TEDxUFS conference in the Odeion Theatre at the University of the Free State on 5 August 2017. Other speakers included the likes of Murendeni Mafumo, founder of Gentle Giant, and Elijah Djan, CEO and inventor of Nubrix.

The event also included TEDx videos, breath-taking performances, and cutting-edge technological exhibitions. The theme was Prism of Possibilities.

Launching a book and album together

Sizwe shared how he, while studying at the University of Oxford, embarked on an ambitious project where he combined his passion for academics and music: To release a book and album about the same things at the same time.

The project is a reflection of the political landscape in South Africa. Sizwe showed how he created a song about student protests by putting different layers of music together.

“The only way to do something that will leave you truly remembered is to do something different. It is to take all of yourself and pour it into the creative pursuit that you produce.”

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