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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

A much-needed "lift" for Psychology students and staff with disabilities
2010-06-01

Pictured are: Mr Riekie Vickers (master's student in Psychology) and Ms Hetsie Veitch (Coordinator and Head: Unit for Students with Disabilities).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe


The Department of Psychology at the University of the Free State (UFS) has officially opened the new elevator installed in the Psychology Building as part of the UFS’s plan of increasing accessibility to its buildings for students and staff with disabilities. The department has approximately 40 undergraduate and postgraduate students with physical disabilities.

“Besides offices, there are classrooms and laboratories in the Psychology Building which were never accessible to these students. To train them they need access to these venues. Now the installation of this elevator makes this possible,” said Prof. Karel Esterhuyse, associate professor in the department.

Some of the latest developments on the Main Campus in this regard include:

  • A new elevator for the West Block which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

     
  • New ramps to both entrances of the Winkie Direko Building were completed and the paving on the sidewalks adjusted to make access to the building easy.

     
  • During the June/July holidays the classrooms and bathrooms in the Genmin Lectorium will be upgraded to improve accessibility for students and staff with disabilities.

     
  • There are 22 new parking spaces for students and staff with disabilities all over the campus.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za  
1 June 2010
 

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