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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

SA-YSSP strengthens academic partnerships between countries
2014-11-17

 

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi
Photo: Stephen Collett

Students from all over the world and all walks of life have come together at the Bloemfontein Campus to take part in the Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) hosted by our university.

This prestigious academic programme is an annual three-month education, academic training and research capacity development programme. The programme is presented in collaboration with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) as well as the National Research Foundation.

Dr Priscilla Mensah, Director of the SA-YSSP, says this programme’s Doctoral candidates are given the opportunity to advance their research under the direct supervision of senior scientists from South Africa and IIASA.

“In line with international trends in doctoral education, the SA-YSSP seeks to advance not only the discipline-specific research skills of the young scientists, but also equip and expose scholars to an array of additional competencies and skills required to be successful in knowledge-driven societies,” Dr Mensah says.

During her keynote address, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, praised the UFS for hosting this successful programme for the third year. “The success of this programme shows in the increase in applicants internationally but specifically in our SADEC regions.”

She said that solutions to the problems in the world require a wide variety of knowledge and integrated approaches to the unique challenges in different countries.

Deputy Minister Magwaza-Msibi also regards the SA-YSSP as a very successful platform to strengthen partnerships with countries.

 

 

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