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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

Student leaders take the lead by launching SRC Fund
2017-08-24

  Description: SRC Breakfast Tags: Student Representative Council, SRC Fund, Pura Mgolombane, Prof Nicky Morgan, Sikhululekile Luwaca

The Student Representative Council (SRC) launched the SRC Fund
at a Business Breakfast on the Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Johan Roux

     


The Student Representative Council (SRC) is not just asking for financial help, but is taking the lead by launching the SRC Fund. According to different guest speakers at a recent SRC Business Breakfast, the student leadership of the University of the Free State (UFS) is setting an example.
“They (the SRC) are saying to us and to you: We are not just saying that we want free education in our lifetime. We are also prepared to assist government in assisting universities however we can in that direction,” says Pura Mgolombane, Dean of Student Affairs at the UFS.

Objectives of fund

The SRC launched the SRC Fund on 4 August 2017 at the Centenary Complex on the Bloemfontein Campus in order to fight against financial exclusion of students. The fund aims to centre all forms of fundraising initiatives by students, decreasing financial barriers to UFS entry, and utilising and maximising networks within business enterprise, former SRC members, alumni, and student fundraising initiatives. It also wants to help with the creation of exposure and mentorship programmes, funds to assist with registration and financial exclusions, entrepreneur development, partnership opportunities, and increasing employment opportunities.
Initiatives such as Right2Learn will in future form part of the fund, and fundraising initiatives such as The Cycle Tour and Kovsies Biggest Braai has also been launched.

Internal and external partnerships 
Prof Nicky Morgan, Vice-Rector: Operations at the UFS, says the SRC leadership is not just asking for money. He says they are a “can do leadership” who is asking others to help them to be successful. He also stressed the important relationship between the university and the city and asked that they should work together.
Sikhululekile Luwaca, President of the Bloemfontein SRC, said the SRC wants to “build internal and external partnerships, because universities are microcosms of society”. 
“We cannot do it alone and that is why we are trying to bring the business part of it, the corporate enterprise, to also assist the SRC Fund to become sustainable.”

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