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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

UFS bids Dr Franklin Sonn farewell
2010-06-01

Attending the Chancellor's Dinner were, from the left: Judge Ian van der Merwe, Chairperson of the UFS Council; Dr Franklin Sonn, former Chancellor of the UFS; and Judge Faan Hancke, former Chairperson of the UFS Council.
Photo: Stephen Collett


The University of the Free State (UFS) bade its former Chancellor, Dr Franklin Sonn farewell during the Chancellor’s Dinner that was hosted on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein recently.

Dr Sonn held this office from 2002 and retired as Chancellor of the UFS on 31 December
2009.

“Dr Sonn lent dignity and stature to the position of Chancellor and to the UFS. Although this position is mainly ceremonial, he made deciding contributions to important decisions by the UFS and the strategic direction of the institution. We thank him for this,” Judge Ian van der Merwe, Chairperson of the UFS Council said.

In a tribute to Dr Sonn, Judge Faan Hancke, former Chairperson of the UFS Council said that he was a remarkable person. “His versatility is clear from the fact that he is currently the chairperson of seven listed companies. He is, amongst others, the patron of the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, trustee of the Desmond Tutu Freedom Trust and former South African Ambassador to the USA.”

Dr Sonn holds 12 honorary doctorates; has been nominated by the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut (AHI) as community leader of the year for 1999; received the national award from President Thabo Mbeki known as the “National Order Counsellor of the Baobab Silver” in 2008, as well as the award “International Salute Award in Honour of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr” – “For working to Keep the Dream Alive” – in January 1996. He was the Rector of the Peninsula Technikon and is also a former President of the AHI, Chairperson of the “United States – South African Leadership Exchange” and former member of the SABC Board.

Judge Hancke said that Dr Soon lent new prestige and status to the office of Chancellor and as such showed unbelievable loyalty towards the UFS. “He was a role model for all. Our best wishes accompany him and his wife, Joan,” he said.

The UFS Council will appoint a new Chancellor on Friday, 4 June 2010.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication (acting)
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl@ufs.ac.za  
1 June 2010
 

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