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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

Environmental management – the answer to a sustainable green economy
2014-11-03



From the left are: Tshepo Moremi (Deputy Director-General), Mamotena Puleni (Personal Assistant to the Deputy Director-General) and Prof Maitland Seaman (Head of Department: Centre for Environmental Management).

Photo: Ifa Tshishonge

As part of celebrating 20 years of existence, the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State (UFS) hosted a public lecture themed, ‘The Future of Environmental Management’. Mr Tshepo Moremi, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Free State), portfolio Environment, Conservation and Tourism, delivered this lecture.

Mr Moremi said, “The environmental performance of South Africa must be seen in the context of our history and the country’s transition. South Africa has taken the lead in being a responsible global citizen, and we also participate in international projects in this field.”

South Africa hosts one of the richest biodiversities in the world. However, the country’s economy is still very energy - and carbon intensive.

“According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 16% of all deaths and one-third of diseases in children under the age of five years are environmentally related. Inadequate sanitation and indoor pollution are key factors,” Mr Moremi said.

“Academic institutions like the UFS and the government need to take the role of equipping citizens with skills and training so that we can overcome the challenges and seize opportunities related to the environment.

“Financing mechanisms for projects related to environmental sustainability were introduced in 2011. However, we still lack skilled capacity to run these projects smoothly and to use international and national funding strategically.

“Looking forward and responding to our challenges, it is vital that we transform our economy to be an international competitor and job-creation hub, and to be sustainably climate resilient, as outlined by the National Development Plan. Minimum standards will also be put in place to regulate emissions and monitor air quality. The sustainability of society’s well-being is important to the long-term role of environmental management in boosting our socio-economic status as a nation,” Mr Moremi said.

He emphasised that it must not only be about conserving and preserving. “Our people should benefit economically and socially,” he said.

Mr Moremi encouraged the audience to defend ideas that protect our non-speaking natural resources. “Let’s all do what we can and rise to this advocacy challenge,” he added. He also expressed his gratitude towards the university for honouring him during such a celebration and for working together in advocating for environmental issues.

The Centre for Environmental Management also hosted a strategic colloquium, discussing issues such as demography, resources, climate, water, environmental management, academic pursuance, as well as curriculum and the role of professional registration which may have an influence on the nature of its programmes.

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