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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

Qwaqwa Campus announces 2017/2018 SRC
2017-09-06

Description: QQ campus SRC Tags: Qwaqwa Campus, SRC,Sasco, Prakash Naidoo 

Newly-elected SRC President, Masopha Hlalele, leading a
ceremonial walk to the SRC chambers for the first sitting
of the SRC.With him is the Director: Student Affairs,
Temba Hlasho;IEA Chairperson, Grey Magaiza; and
Campus Principal, Prof Prakash Naidoo.
Photo: Thabo Kessah


The 2017/2018 Student Representative Council (SRC) elections on the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) have been declared free, fair, and credible. This was announced by the Chairperson of the institutional Independent Electoral Agency (IEA), Grey Magaiza, during the official announcement of the results and the hand-over ceremony held on 4 September 2017. 

“We had an average voter turnout of 52% per elective portfolio, thus making it arguably one of the highest in the country. Compared to last year, there was a 15% increase notwithstanding the 23% increase in the student population,” he said.  
In congratulating the newly-elected SRC, the Director of Student Affairs, Temba Hlasho, challenged the student leaders to leave the campus intact and fully sustainable for future generations.
“You are now faced with the mammoth task of understanding your role in developing an ethical and moral leadership that will help to sustain the university academically, financially, and beyond.”
In his response, the new SRC President, Masopha Hlalele, acknowledged the role played by the previous SRC, and said they were prepared to usher in a new phase of turning each student into a proud ambassador of the campus.

“We will be ushering in a new phase where all students will be the focus of the SRC. This will be a phase where students will not discriminate against each other, but appreciate each other’s differences and become ambassadors,” he said.

The South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) won all seven elective seats with an average of 62.5%.

Elective portfolios:

President: Masopha Hlalele 
Deputy President: Sakhile Mnguni 
Secretary General:  Mawande Mazibuko 
Treasurer General:  Mafusi Mosia 
Media and Publicity:  Khethukuthula Thusi 
Student Development and Environmental Affairs: Mbali Ndlovu 
Politics and Transformation: Promise Mofokeng

Ex officio portfolios:

Arts and Culture: Khulani Mhlongo 
Religious Affairs: Ndamulelo Muthaki, 
RAG, Community and Dialogue: Mafeka Tshabalala 
Residence and Catering Affairs: Thato Moloi  
Sports Affairs: Sibusiso Nsibande
Academic Affairs: Mamokete Tamo
Off-Campus: Khethwa Mngezi 

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