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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

Centre for Africa Studies goes quadruple
2014-09-02

The Centre for Africa Studies at the UFS hosted a book launch on 27 August 2014. Prof Heidi Hudson expressed her excitement as she welcomed the audience and authors that evening, “This has not happened yet at our department where we launch four books at the same time, thus it is a happy and glorious moment for us.”

Book 1: Sacred Spaces and Contested Identities. Space and Ritual Dynamics in Europe and Africa. Edited by Paul Post, Philip Nel and Walter van Beek.

This book deals with the fundamental changes in society and culture that are forcing us to reconsider the position of sacred space, and to do this within the broader context of ritual and religious dynamics and what is called a ‘spatial turn’. Conversely, sacred sites are a privileged way of studying current cultural dynamics. This collection of studies on sacred space concerns itself with both perspectives by exploring place-bound dynamics of the sacred spaces in Africa and Europe.

Book 2: Understanding Namibia. The Trials of Independence. Written by Henning Melber.

This study explores the achievements and failures of Namibia’s transformation since independence. It contrasts the narrative of a post-colonial patriotic history with the socio-economic and political realities of the nation-building project.

Book 3: Peace Diplomacy, Global Justice and International Agency Rethinking Human Security and Ethics in the Spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld. Edited by Carsten Stahn and Henning Melber.

This tribute and critical review of Hammarskjöld's values and legacy examines his approach towards international civil service, agency and value-based leadership, investigates his vision of internationalism and explores his achievements and failures as Secretary-General. The book is also available in print. Melber is a Senior Adviser and Director Emeritus of The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Uppsala, Sweden. He is also Extraordinary Professor at both the University of Pretoria and the Centre for Africa Studies, University of the Free State.

Book 4: Au commencement était le Mimisme: Essai de lecture globale des cours de Marcel Jousse ( In the beginning was mimism: A holistic reading of Marcel Jousse’s lectures). Written by: Edgard Sienaert

This publication allows us to hear the voice of Marcel Jousse, professor of Anthropology of Language, who taught in Paris between 1931 and 1957. Edgard Sienaert, after having edited and translated in English all publications of Jousse, returns here to Jousse’s one-thousand lectures, synthesised through the lens of an anthropology of human mimism. Jousse’s train of thought leads us to question our own thought categories stuck in antagonisms: spirit and matter, concrete and abstract, body and mind, science and faith. Sienaert is currently a research fellow at the Centre for Africa Studies, University of the Free State, with an MA and PhD in Romance Philology. He published widely on medieval French literature and on orality. 
 

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