Despite the importance of women in the global response to COVID-19, they remain underrepresented in leadership positions, are subjected to violence and disadvantaged by discriminatory laws, while also carrying a disproportionate burden of unpaid and low-paid domestic and care work.
Gender justice is an area of critical focus for the current Vice-Chancellor, who committed significant strategic funds to a major initiative: ‘Advancing womxn: a call for change’ soon after she took office.
The initiative aims to increase the number of black women researchers in areas where they are scarce and in fields focused on research that benefits women. One of the winning projects was Ocean Womxn, which provides scholarships and resources to black women and transgender researchers in ocean science.
Another initiative, 'Unsettling knowledge production on gendered and sexual violence in South Africa', has engaged with work on social media and other forms of activism against gender-based violence, black transgender women’s experiences of violence, women’s experiences of violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and digital sexism.
More broadly, research into gender and equality at UCT takes place in and across several dedicated research groups.
Although accurate statistics are hard to come by, South Africa clearly suffers from high levels of gender-based violence, which disproportionately affects women. The Gender Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU) works to improve service provision to victims of crime, violence and human rights violations, facilitate violence prevention, and promote access to justice in Southern and Eastern Africa through interdisciplinary research, advocacy and education.
The African Gender Institute (AGI) brings a gender lens to illuminate ideas about class, race and history, exploring and explores the power of gender dynamics across multiple fields of social relevance.
Since 2012, the AIDS and Society Research Unit has been working to change attitudes towards HIV and related issues in South Africa. Working with the University of Oxford and a number of government agencies and NGOs, researchers here have led the largest known mixed-methods, community-based study on anti-retroviral treatment adherence and sexual health among HIV-positive adolescents: Mzantsi Wakho.