September 24, 2014

Unpaid, Unrecognized, Undervalued: Women’s and Girls’ Care Work

Written by Felogene, Girls' Globe blogger

Nafula, a young twenty-five year old from Chavakali, Kenya begins her day at 4a.m. Before the sun rises, she walks more than 2 kilometres to the borehole where 20 other women are already in the queue. It takes one hour for her to collect water for the day. With a 5 month old child on her back, a twenty litre container on her head and a small five litre container, she hurries home to prepare breakfast for her husband and two children. After completing the housework and tilling the family land, Nafula will make her way to the nearby hospital which is ten kilometres away. It is also her responsibility to care for her father-in law’s health. After his daily doctor’s appointment, her husband and children will arrive at home for dinner. Although every life is unique, Nafula’s story is similar to many women and girls.

The Labor of Love – By Definition

While unpaid care work may be a labour of love, it is still labour. Care work is labour from which we all benefit – raising children who contribute to society, helping people suffering illness, caring for persons differently abled and the elderly.

Unpaid care work includes the following:

  • Domestic labour (cooking, cleaning, washing, fetching water and fuel collection)
  • Caring for people’s health and well-being (child care, elderly care and care of persons differently abled and other vulnerable groups)

Investment in this type of labour often means lost opportunities for women and girls.

  • Young girls are kept home from school due to household obligations
  • Women agricultural and economic opportunities which leads to food security and nutrition issues
  • Women and young girls have no time to access the essential maternal and child health services they need

Why Should You Care?

Women and girls carry the burden of domestic and care work in the home. In contrast, men receive most of the share of income and recognition for their economic contribution. Women’s work remains unpaid, unrecognized and undervalued. Care is essential and integral to our lives. Until care work is more equally shared between women and men, our society and economy will suffer. According to a recent UN Report, the monetary value of unpaid care work is estimated to be 10 to over 50 per cent of the GDP. Despite the research, domestic work and caring for people has remained largely invisible in economic calculations, statistics, policy and political discourse, and is commonly undervalued by society and policy makers.

A Call to Action

Placing value, recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid care will have a positive impact on achieving gender equality and achieving all the other goals in the post-2015 development framework. Through a redistribution power and changing of gender norms we will be able to boost women’s and girl’s health, increase their educational opportunities and advance their social and economic status.

Want to learn more? Watch: Who Cares?