KAMPALA – Earlier in August, the United Nations General Assembly, through a groundbreaking resolved to commemorate an International Day of Care and Support to acknowledge the disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic work on women and girls.
To be observed every 29 October, the Day seeks to highlight the need to address these structural barriers, which hinder women’s empowerment.
In Uganda, the Day was launched on Monday 30, 2023 by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to emphasize the value of care work and recognize care workers as essential workers.
“…we recognize the burden of the unpaid care work on women and girls since it affects them (women and girls) socially and economically,” said Ms. Ariiho Sheila – Senior Women in Development Officer, Ministry of Gender.
She noted that this unpaid care work limits their opportunities to contribute to national development since most of the work they are doing is not remunerated.
“Therefore, this affects the women’s economic empowerment agenda and their status as well.”
“As a ministry, we do recognize this day and we pledged it to become a national Day every 29th October,” she said, noting that “but it will not be gazetted to become a public holiday.”
“We shall be commemorating it like any other day like how we acknowledge that 16 days of activism [and]rural women’s day,” she added.
Suzan Acen, Coordinator Gender and Peace at Forum for Women in Democracy – FOWODE underscored the journey moved by the women’s movement in Uganda, towards recognizing the 4 Rs of unpaid care work; recognizing that this is one, redistribution, reduction, and representation of unpaid care and domestic work.
“It’s been a journey with OXFAM, which started in 2014 with a project we call We Care, phase one, phase two, phase three, phase four and now we are moving to Phase Five.”
Acen called for efforts to rectify unfair arrangements concerning paid and unpaid care and domestic work, to create an enabling environment for women’s economic autonomy and the overall well-being of both care workers and the communities they serve.
Ms. Regina Bafaki – ED, Action for Development and UWONET Board Member, challenged all the stakeholders to repackage their information so that the different categories of people they are trying to influence understand the message.
“The establishment of the International Day of care and support stands as a testament for our unwavering commitment and serves as an acknowledgement of the progress we have made together with fellow care advocates.”
She noted that there is a strong need to also needed to address the difficulties that are connected with prioritizing the unpaid care work and domestic work.
Jane Ocaya-Irama, Women’s Rights Advisor, OXFAM in Uganda called for presenting of care as a social good and not as a burden if the realization of gender equality, and women’s empowerment are to be achieved.
She noted that Uganda continues to face gender inequality in leadership and economic empowerment and the resultant outcomes, blaming the disparities on some of the cultural and religious norms, beliefs, and practices that reinforce the unequal allocation of unpaid care work between men and women, which continues to limit women’s involvement in more skilled and better-paid jobs and sectors.
Ocaya is optimistic that once women are economically empowered, it will be a sustainable and smart way of achieving gender equality and leaving no one behind but also achieving economic development of a country.
According to UN, adopting this resolution marks a significant step towards promoting the rights of caregivers and care recipients. They note that the resolution is timely as it takes into consideration a global aging trend, recognizing the growing need for care work and support systems and the importance of investing in the care economy, including the development of robust, resilient, gender-responsive, disability-inclusive, and age-sensitive care and support systems.
According to the UBOS survey 2019, men spent 5.3 hours on productive work compared to their women counterparts who spent only 3.4 hours whereas women spent 6.6 hours on unpaid work than men at 5.1 hours.