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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

From lock to SA prop in six months
2017-08-29

 Description: Kwenzo Bloze Tags: Kwenzo Blose, KovsieSport’s, Junior Sportsman of 2016, World Championship, Shimla 

One of the rugby players that Kwenzo Blose looks
up to, is the Cheetah prop Ox Nche. He and Nche
are both residents of the Vishuis men’s residence.
Photo: Jóhann Thormählen


If someone told Kwenzo Blose of Glenwood High School that he would scrum as prop for the South African U/20 rugby team at the Junior World Championship, he would probably have thought it was a joke. At that time he still played lock, but only six months after the shift to prop, he represented his country at the tournament in Manchester, England.

Apart from this, KovsieSport’s Junior Sportsman of 2016 – who will probably be playing in his second World Championship this year, only became a Shimla in 2017. Last year he was still playing for the University of the Free State’s Young Guns.

Beast also played lock at first
André Tredoux, former UFS and Cheetah talent scout, said the Springbok prop Beast Mtawarira also played lock and flank at school. “Glenwood competed in the Wildeklawer Super Schools Tournament. Apparently coach André spotted me there and talked to Stephan Jacobs, another UFS coach. At that stage, I still played lock and they told each other that they had to get me to the Free State and convince me to play prop. I knew nothing of these plans,” said Blose.

According to this Paulpietersburg-native, who is 1,87 m tall and weighs 112 kg, he still has a lot to learn at prop. His greatest adjustments were in the scrums. “At prop you have to absorb the pressure of the rest of the pack in order to provide your team with front-foot ball,” he said. He said Jacobs, who was his Young Guns scrum coach, and Daan Human, the Cheetah scrum doctor, has helped him a lot.

An avid student off the field
Even though rugby has opened doors for the loose head who is studying LLB Law, he maintains a good balance. “The main reason why I came to university is to study. To be playing rugby and performing well is a great blessing, but I also have to prioritise and make sure that I obtain my degree.”

This year’s Junior World Championship was from 31 May to 18 June in Tbilisi, Georgia. Last year, the Baby Boks finished in a disappointing fourth place, but Blose believes they can improve on this. “If everything goes according to plan and if some of the guys are playing again, we would have something like nine players who played in the 2016 tournament.”

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