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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 presents first Beyers Naudé Memorial lecture
2010-09-16

At the Beyers Naudé   Memorial lecture were, from the left: Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS; Rev. Cedric Mayson; and Mr Kgotso Schoeman, Chief Executive Officer of Kagiso Trust.
Photo: Dries Myburg

The seventh Beyers Naudé Memorial lecture was presented for the first time at the University of the Free State (UFS) this week. This lecture that is presented at a different university each year took place on the Main Campus of the UFS in Bloemfontein this year. Rev. Cedrick Mayson presented the lecture with under the theme: Crafting a legacy.

According to Rev. Mayson more deeply rooted forms of suppression came forward after the democratic elections in 1994. Liberation from apartheid was, according to Mason, very superficial. The poor were still severely suppressed at economic, political, cultural, religious and environmental level. “We have to apply Beyers Naudé’s legacy of liberation in these areas,” Rev. Mayson declared.

“The system according to which the rich become wealthier and the poor become poorer must be replaced by a system where everybody can have enough. This is only possible with the insight of the oppressed.

“The government and the opposition are dominated by people who seek advantage for their own gain. Regardless of democratic slogans and some enlightened individuals’ rules against corruption and violence, we lack the political will to engage in the transformation of the whole world for the good of all earthlings,” said Rev. Mayson.

According to him, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanised.

“Religions are self-centred. Leaders from most of the religious groupings criticised apartheid but they never joined the struggle to assist in demolishing apartheid. It appears as if religious institutions are not able to address the causes of poverty because they themselves are too rich and too powerful,” said Rev. Mayson.

He ended with the following words: “What we need is a leap of faith. Beyers knew that. The world is waiting for people to claim their legacy and to accomplish a post-religious secular spirituality of ubuntu.”

Rev. Mayson is a former Head of Religious Affairs of the ANC. He had also been a former staff member of the Christian Institute before it was banned. Furthermore, he was the Editor of Pro Veritate. Before he retired, he had also been involved in the South African Council of Churches and the World Conference for Peace.

The memorial lecture, a collaborative effort of the UFS and Kagiso Trust, endeavours to involve South Africans in dialogue about issues that affect our nation. This year the lecture was presented at the UFS for the first time and it will take place on the Qwaqwa Campus of the UFS next year.

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

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