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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

FF Plus court case against UFS withdrawn
2007-10-23

The University of the Free State (UFS) is pleased to announce that a Supreme Court application to have the racial integration of its student residences set aside has been withdrawn unconditionally by the Freedom Front Plus (FF+). The political party has offered to pay the assessed costs of the UFS.

The Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof. Frederick Fourie, welcomed this decision by the FF+, saying all energy should now be focused on making a success of this very important nation-building initiative in the student residences. “We have been convinced all the time that we had followed a fair and inclusive consultation process which led to a thorough and well-considered decision by the Council,” he said.

The decision to integrate student residences as from January 2008 was approved by the UFS Council on 8 June 2007. This last decision was confirmed by the Council – which is the highest decision making body at the UFS -  on 14 September 2007 with an overwhelming majority, with only one vote against.

“There is now no legal obstacle to student participation in the work being done to implement Council’s decision. In fact I want to urge all students in our residences to play an active role in implementing Council’s decision,” he said.

According to Prof. Fourie much work has been done in preparation for the intake of first-years into the residences in January 2008.

Since the initial decision of 8 June 2007, the Vice-Rector: Student Affairs, Dr Ezekiel Moraka, has been leading a team of staff members and student representatives who are doing work in various sub-task teams.

“One of the main reasons for working in this way through sub-task teams, is to ensure the widest possible participation of the affected students in the implementation of the Council’s decision,” said Prof. Fourie.

These sub-task teams are working on aspects of residence life in order to make the racial integration of residences as successful as possible. These aspects of residence life include, among others:
 

  • governance structures
  • traditions and character of residences
  • diversity education and training
  • security
  • placement and recruitment

“This list is not exhaustive, but merely to illustrate the kinds of areas being looked into. I would like to encourage all students in residences to make an input into the work of these sub-task teams through the primes, the Student Representative Council (SRC) or through the offices of the Dean or the Deputy Dean of Student Affairs.

“We have already begun to implement an interpreting service at the house meetings of three ladies residences, namely Emily Hobhouse, Roosmaryn and Vergeet-my-nie. From next year this service will be extended to other residences on the Main Campus,” said Prof. Fourie.  

“In the light of withdrawal of the court case, I am appealing to all students in our residences, to join hands with fellow students and with management in creating a campus of respect and appreciation for all languages, cultures and backgrounds,” he said.

“We want our students to assist the UFS in successfully managing the rich diversity on this campus, particularly in its student residences, and in so doing become an example to South Africa of a truly non-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual campus, where students are appropriately educated for the workplace,” Prof. Fourie said.


Media release issued by:        
Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison  
Tel:  051 401 2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za

23 October 2007

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