Women activists are urging society to recognize unpaid care work as a valuable contribution to social and economic development. This call to action was made by a diverse group of participants, including academicians, activists, and government officials, who congregated to discuss the implementation of care policies in Uganda in a recent validation workshop held at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.
Peace Immaculate Chandini, the Women’s Rights Coordinator of Oxfam in Uganda, emphasized the lack of attention and value attributed to unpaid care work in society. Unpaid care work encompasses domestic chores, child care, and the care of the sick and elderly, all performed without any financial or economic compensation.
Global statistics reveal that 78.4 percent of households worldwide are headed by women who bear the increasing financial and childcare responsibilities without support from fathers. This burden primarily falls on unpaid caregivers, predominantly women and girls from socially disadvantaged groups.
Chandini underscored how unpaid care work limits caregivers’ opportunities for other forms of productive work. Recognizing care work as valuable, she argued, would facilitate a discussion on its redistribution, reducing the disproportionate burden currently borne by women and girls.
Despite ongoing research commissioned by Oxfam and Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), titled “The National Roll-out of the Care Policy Scorecard in Uganda 2022,” Chandini expressed concerns about the preliminary results, highlighting the need for improved policy formulation and implementation to recognize unpaid care work.
Paulina Kiwangu, the UN Women’s Country Director in Uganda, called for a societal discussion on compensating unpaid care work. This, she argued, requires an appreciation of the work’s value and the implementation of favorable policies on care work by the government. Kiwangu proposed a mindset change to challenge societal expectations and gender roles, promoting positive masculinity that doesn’t burden specific sections of society, especially women.
Rita Aciro, the Executive Director of UWONET, suggested reframing the issue as a fundamental development and social concern, challenging the resistance often encountered when discussing unpaid care. Aciro highlighted that women’s engagement in paid care work hampers their participation in public discourse and resource allocation.
Dr. Peace Musiimenta, a Gender Studies lecturer at Makerere University, emphasized the need to view unpaid care work not only as a burden on women but also as a deprivation for men. She called for reflection on societal perceptions of masculinity, citing instances during the COVID-19 pandemic where men’s willingness to engage in domestic work was hindered by traditional gender norms.