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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

Another award proves quality of Architecture
2012-04-13

Jurie Swart with Mrs Martie Bitzer, Head of the Department of Architecture.
Photo: Supplied
13 April 2012

 

The Department of Architecture can be proud of its students. Recently, Jurie Swart was honoured as regional winner of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award. He was also placed second nationally.

Jurie is an architect at the The Roodt Partnership in Bloemfontein.
 
Corobrik says in a media release: “Tomorrow’s architects set new standards at 25th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards. Achieving sustainable built environments with low impacts on the natural environment is becoming a universal goal. Energy usage in buildings is under the spotlight. Water-wise projects are most likely to get the go ahead. That is why an in-depth understanding of the environmental constraints and impacts of technologies on architectural solutions is becoming so important for students of architecture. It is the resolution of environmental issues that can be expected to drive architectural expression that will shape tomorrow’s buildings and the creation, extension and redevelopment of our towns and cities.”

Jurie Swart’s project, Borderline – mediated landscape, a Water Research Centre for the University of the Free State (Qwaqwa Campus), explores whether nature and architecture can amalgamate to become a hybrid solution in a vast landscape which has lost its reference to place and time.

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