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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

Chakalaka can have side effects for these patients
2010-06-24

Chakalaka is a sauce many South Africans cannot imagine a meal without, but research at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS) has shown that it can have serious side effects and even compromise the treatment of leukaemia patients.

Prof. Vernon Louw from the Department of Internal Medicine at the Faculty says that tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are a new group of drugs providing targeted therapy for chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). It vastly contributes to the survival of patients, but it has side effects like vasodilatation. Research has shown that spices like chakalaka may aggravate vasodilatation (widening of veins) with patients on these drugs.

“These spices produce serious oedema (water retention) and headaches. We have found that discontinuing the intake of spices allows some patients to maintain therapeutic doses of TKIs.” Chakalaka contains mainly garlic and chilli.

CML represents up to 20% of all leukaemia patients in South Africa and up to 450 new cases are reported every year.

In the study symptoms of severe headache and oedema disappeared within days of discontinuing the use of chakalaka.

Prof. Louw says it is important for oncologists to ask their patients about their intake of spices and garlic when they are on TKIs. It is also advisable to enquire about the use of complementary alternative medicine as the interaction of these medicines in cancer treatment is not known.

Media Release

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

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