A growing number of Ugandan women have made the choice to leave their well-paying corporate jobs in favour of staying at home to care for their families. They’ve traded in their heels and power suits, temporarily setting aside their careers to focus on the vital task of raising their children. However, despite the perception of enjoying a break from work-related stress, these women are now calling for compensation, contending that they contribute to robust, resilient, and gender responsive support systems while upholding human rights.
This demand for compensation was raised during a special event held to commemorate the International Day of Care and Support at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Kampala on Sunday. This international day, recognized by the United Nations, aims to draw attention to the disproportionate burden of unpaid care and household work borne by women and girls, highlighting the necessity of addressing these systemic obstacles to women’s empowerment.
To realize this goal, the women have made an appeal to President Yoweri Museveni, urging him to approve the Employment Amendment Bill, which was passed by Parliament in July of this year, and is intended to, among other things, pave the way for the implementation of a minimum wage.
During the event, numerous participants made compelling arguments in favor of financial compensation for their roles. Solome Nakalema, a former market vendor who transitioned to a housewife, criticized men for neglecting their responsibilities as stay-at-home mothers’ partners. She revealed that most men provide a standard daily home stipend, often around 10,000 Ugandan Shillings, which is insufficient to cover household expenses. Nakalema argued that household chores are more physically demanding than office work and suggested that men who earn salaries should allocate a portion to their spouses, commensurate with the effort expended.
Florence Aciro, married to a security guard, shared her own experience of transitioning from a traditional housewife role to becoming a street vendor to supplement her family’s income. She expressed the challenges she faced while relying solely on her husband’s monthly salary of 80,000 Ugandan Shillings. However, with the support of organizations like the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), Aciro managed to empower herself and convince her husband to contribute adequately to their household expenses.
Jane Ocaya-IRama, a women’s rights advisor at Oxfam Uganda, emphasized that the issue should not be reduced to merely paying housewives but should be seen from the perspective of those with caregiving responsibilities in their households. She suggested that couples should come to an agreement regarding household expenses and provide resources for personal expenditure when a woman decides to stay at home to care for the family.
Regina Bafaki, an executive director at Action for Development (ACFODE), pointed out that involving various stakeholders in caregiving responsibilities can alleviate the burden on women and contribute to economic growth. She highlighted the substantial but often overlooked economic contributions made by women to society’s well-being and growth.
However, Reuben Muhabuzi, the founder of Men’s Protection Against Domestic Violence, expressed concerns about the increasing focus on financial demands in marriages, asserting that it is detrimental to the institution of marriage. He observed that some women view marriage as an investment, akin to a fixed deposit account where wealth accumulates over time. Muhabuzi further stated that some men have reported being required to pay money before engaging in sexual relations with their wives. He argued that men’s contributions to their households are often underappreciated, and instead of focusing on salary demands, men should be encouraged in their roles within the family.
City lawyer Luyimbazi Nalukoola emphasized that, except for Sharia Law, there is no provision in Ugandan law where a husband is required to pay his wife a salary. He clarified that under Ugandan law, a wife is typically rewarded in cases of divorce or in the event of a spouse’s death and estate distribution.
The debate on whether housewives should be compensated for their work is not unique to Uganda. In 2021, a High Court judge in Kenya, Teresiah Matheka, ruled that being a housewife should be considered a full-time, paid job. Kenya joined Venezuela and India as some of the few countries in the world contemplating the concept of compensating stay-at-home mothers.
In 2007, the Venezuelan government began paying stay-at-home housewives, recognizing their work as valuable economic activity. Uganda now finds itself part of a global conversation on the recognition and compensation of unpaid care work, bringing important issues of gender equality and family dynamics to the forefront.