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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

More than 800 students graduate at the UFS
2010-09-14

The University of the Free State (UFS) will confer 881 degrees and diplomas during its Spring graduation and diploma ceremonies that will be held in the Callie Human Centre on the Main Campus.

The various graduation ceremonies will take place on Wednesday, 15 and Thursday, 16 September 2010.

The UFS will award 566 degrees, 41 doctorates and 274 diplomas. Two honorary doctorates will also be conferred on Prof. Kalie Strydom and Dr Monty Jones.

For more than two decades Prof. Strydom has been associated with excellence in educational research, especially in the field of higher education. Dr Jones is the Executive Director of FARA (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa). He is a Sierra Leonean and has spent the last 32 years of his career in Africa working in international agricultural research for development institutions.

The full programme is as follows:

  • Wednesday, 15 September 2010:

    -At 14:30 266 students from the Faculties of the Humanities, Health Sciences, Education, Law and Theology will receive their degrees and 20 doctorates will be conferred. On the same day Prof. Strydom will receive an honorary doctorate and Mrs Alida Maria Dippenaar a Chancellor’s Medal. She was during her career one of the pioneer senior female managers and a member of the Executive Management and the Senate at the UFS.
  • Thursday, 16 September 2010:

    - 08:30: 300 degrees and 21 doctorates will be awarded in the Faculties of Economic and Management Sciences and Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Dr Jones will also receive an honorary doctorate on the same day.

- 14:30: 274 diplomas will be conferred on students from all faculties.

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

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