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Activists Call for Recognition of Unpaid Care, Domestic Work :: Uganda Radionetwork

Activists Call for Recognition of Unpaid Care, Domestic Work

According to Rita Aciro, Executive Director of the Uganda Women's Network, unpaid caregiving is the backbone of society but is still overlooked and underappreciated
12 Jun 2024 12:22
From solo act to shared stage; Husband helps wife to wash utensils. Photo by UWONET
Gender activists are advocating for the recognition of unpaid caregiving and domestic work. 

Unpaid care and domestic work, which includes tasks such as child, elder care, cooking, and cleaning, fetching firewood and water among others is predominantly performed by women and girls. Despite its critical importance in supporting households and the economy, this activity is usually ignored in economic assessments and policy-making.

According to Rita Aciro, Executive Director of the Uganda Women's Network, unpaid caregiving is the backbone of society but is still overlooked and underappreciated. She adds that substantial potential and financial worth can be realized with even a small bit of assistance for those working in this "overlooked sector."

"We must acknowledge the significant contributions of those undertaking these tasks and offer the support needed to alleviate their burdens," says Aciro.

"Measures to be implemented include financial compensation, social security benefits, access to quality childcare and elderly care services, flexible work arrangements, and improved parental leave policies to assist those balancing paid employment with domestic responsibilities."

Aciro made the comments on Tuesday during the high-level discussion on unpaid care and domestic work, which was planned to increase awareness and develop workable solutions for the issues involved.

Angela Nakafeero, Commissioner for Gender at the Ministry of Gender Culture and Social Development, used a picture to illustrate the harsh reality of unpaid caregiving 

The photo depicted a scene familiar to many: a mother stands by a charcoal stove, tending to a pot. A heap of laundry waits to be washed, while two young children are confined to a basin, likely to keep them safe. A lone broom in the corner silently announces the never-ending cycle of domestic chores.

The commissioner said that the topic of assisted care has been deliberated in cabinet. She quoted President Yoweri Museveni as saying, "Who is going to pay for this work?" during one of the sessions.

Nakafeero, added that previously there has been a misunderstanding on the matter, with the public misreading the advocates of unpaid care as if they are suggesting that spouses, mainly husbands, should pay in monetary terms to women for the work done at home.

“Paying would be good, but that is not all we are advocating. This issue is bigger. For the spouses, they can put conditions at home that help each other to reduce the burden. it begins with simple recognition, possible redistribution of the work persons at home both men and women to reduce its burden from one party,” Nakafeero noted.

According to Aciro, if the burden is left to one person, it robs them of the time they could have used to involve themselves in other economic and personal development activities, thus preventing them from reaching their full potential in areas they could have served better.

“Statistics show that women are more; possibly 51 percent of the population. The majority are locked in unpaid care and domestic work. That is already a loss to the economy before we compute productive time lost. This is not about women alone; there are also some men involved in this too,” she added. 

Sarah Agwang, Director of Programs at UWONET, emphasized the critical role of the government in alleviating the burden of unpaid care and domestic work. "The government needs to implement support systems that bring essential services closer to the people," she stated.

Agwang highlighted the importance of social protection mechanisms, such as childcare services and family leave policies, to support caregivers. She also called for improved infrastructure, including healthcare services, childcare facilities, and transportation networks.

Sarah Opendi, Chairperson Uganda Women Parliamentary  Association, underscored the transformative impact support systems can have on reducing the burden faced by those providing unpaid care and domestic work.

“The government is challenged to invest in areas that can help to reduce the burden. more funds should be put in areas that support those offering unpaid care. from simple things of extending clean water to homes, making electricity cheaper, establishimng early childhood centres,” opendi noted.

Florence Asiimwe Akiiki, Woman MP for Masindi and Executive Director of the National Association of Women's Organisations in Uganda, suggested that investing in technology and better products can significantly reduce the burden of unpaid care work.

 "Leveraging technology with creatively designed, purpose-specific labor-saving products is crucial," she stated. "For instance, households can save time by using washing machines for laundry, and collecting water in tanks during rainy seasons can eliminate the need for long trips to fetch water."

She added that new technologies could help challenge traditional gender norms. "If a man cannot prepare or light up a cooking stove, having electricity and a simple cooker means he can easily help by just switching it on.” she noted. However, she stressed that these solutions and technologies need to be made available and accessible to both rural and urban populations.

A survey by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) indicated that in Uganda, women and girls spend around twenty hours per week on unpaid care work—twice as much time as men and boys. This disproportionate burden limits their ability to participate in paid employment.

The findings showed that, on average, women spent 32 hours weekly on unpaid care work and 21 hours weekly on unpaid production of products for home consumption, while men spent 20 and 10 hours per week respectively.

At a global scale, over 75 percent of unpaid care work is done by women, and the economic value of all the unpaid care that women over 15 years old provide is astounding—USD 10.8 trillion.