What you need to know:
- I prefer to tread lightly on the payment of care work for wives as this proposition slows progress on gender equality.
On November 26, Daily Monitor readers awoke to an article about a proposition by feminist lawyers, Ms Bigirwa Twasiima and Ms Esther Amati for husbands to pay for women’s care work.
This prompted some tense conversation on some social media pages. I am writing in response to this policy proposition as well as to what seemed like a lack of understanding on social media of the unpaid care work and its disproportionate burden on females.
Females do most of the care work and are socialised to believe it defines them, they spend most of their time on it, which allows for most men to work outside home, earn and enjoy leisure.
This work is laborious, may not allow time for paid work and is not valued financially. The time-consuming nature of such work as household chores and taking care of children has varying effects on females.
These experiences are worse for unemployed women. Because of existing problems, they are left poorer and vulnerable to abuse and violence.
For the employed women, it means double responsibilities, having to work fulltime as an employee and a homemaker as well. It implies that she barely has time for leisure, a slow career growth and a heavier workload.
One way to address this inequality might be the policy proposition of paying wives as proposed in the article. This draws recognition to the value of care work, gives females value for labour. However, I prefer to tread lightly on the payment of care work for wives as this proposition slows progress on gender equality.
Payment of wives doesn’t remove the structural inequalities that affect females. It’s a conformist approach to justice which allows for women to work within the inequalities that affect them. This enforces the notion of females as sole caregivers, which does not take away the laborious work burden off their routine and doesn’t change power dynamics.
The practicality of implementing this policy is also questionable. For one, it is hard to implement it against poor husbands whose earnings from informal jobs aren’t consistent, are meagre and do not offer any real financial freedom for both themselves and their wives. It would also require a minimum wage which doesn’t exist in Uganda yet. Lastly, its legal enforcement will fall through the cracks of an already poor legal system.
Care work is valuable and should not be viewed as a problem. I would rather it is redistributed among females and males. Males need to take up more household chores just like most women have taken up more financial responsibilities in the family.
However, a much bigger role should be taken up by government and private sector. Payment for domestic care work is possible if it is institutionalised through maternity care pay for unemployed women and compensation of unemployed spouses by workplaces.
Furthermore, work policies should provide more paid paternity leave periods. Government should change its early childhood development policy to include free education for children in childcare and nursery schools so the workload on childcare is transferred to the state. It should make water, electricity, and schools more accessible in rural communities, so families spend less time on such workload.
Lastly, government needs to invest more in the informal sector which ensure better paying jobs, less work hours, and workloads for all genders in the sector so that this energy is transferred to shared roles at home.
Ms Ichumar Sylivia Lorot is an MA in Gender and Development student at the University of Sussex and a women and children’s rights advocate. [email protected]