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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

Young Shimla team reach Varsity Cup semi-final
2017-03-29

Description: Young Shimla team reach Varsity Cup semi-final Tags: Young Shimla team reach Varsity Cup semi-final

The Shimlas will be hoping that some of their stars,
like the brilliant flanker Phumzile Maqondwana, will be
on form in the 2017 Varsity Cup semi-final against
Tuks in Pretoria.
Photo: Johan Roux

The pressure in the Varsity Cup semi-final is on Tuks, which will be reason enough for Shimlas to play with freedom.

This is according to Jaco Swanepoel, Shimla assistant coach, on the big challenge awaiting his young rugby team in Pretoria on 3 April 2017. He says because Tuks are the favourites, it could be to the advantage of the visitors. Maties and the University of Johannesburg are playing in the other semi-final in Stellenbosch on the same day.

Tuks did Shimlas a favour
Tuks’ victory of 43-28 over the Pukke in Potchefstroom on 27 March 2017 helped the Shimlas, who had a bye, to end fourth on the log with 23 league points.
Shimlas had to make use of several new players this year, and few experts would have given them a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Swanepoel says although they are proud of this achievement, only a place among the top four was never their end-goal.
    
Good to be the underdog

The Shimlas lost their league match against Tuks in Bloemfontein with 19-65. This, as well as the fact that Tuks was at the top of the log with 34 league points, underlines the huge task ahead.
“The previous result (against Tuks) is encouragement for the players to show: We aren’t that much worse than Tuks,” says Swanepoel. “Perhaps it is good to be the underdog. We actually have no pressure on us and I hope the players feel the same way.”

Three teams in knockout matches
All three Varsity Cup teams from the University of the Free State (UFS) reached the knockout matches. Apart from Shimlas, the UFS Young Guns played against Tuks in a semi-final in Bloemfontein on 27 March 2017, but lost by 21-45. On 17 April 2017, Vishuis will meet the Puk’s Patria in the residence finals.

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