Rwanda: Calls to Recognise Women's Unpaid Work Gather Momentum

12 December 2019

Daphrose Mukankwiro lives in Nyanza District, Cyabakamyi Sector where 53 per cent of population are women.

For the best part of her typical day, she is doing chores like fetching firewood and water, which are some of the tiring domestic chores that women, especially in rural areas face.

"I wish we had accessible water. Although it would not stop our already tiring domestic work and family care, but at least it would be bearable," she told The New Times.

Mukankwiro represents millions of women whose work, care and dedication go unnoticed because they bear cultural obligation to do such chores.

According to the International Labour Organization, although Unpaid Care Work is not recognized, its value ranges from 12-40 percent of the GDP.

Unpaid Care Work (UCW), refers to the work and services women provide in their homes and in communities, from preparing food to taking care of children and family members.

According to Action Aid Global, UWC is a major catalyst of persistent gender inequalities and gender-based violence (GBV).

It impinges on women's right to education, restrict opportunities for paid work and limits their political participation.

The organisation indicates that these factors harden women economic empowerment.

Women are responsible for much of the production of goods and services that households consume, but it stays unreflected in economic measurements.

Different institutions gathered on Thursday, December 12, to reflect on the effects of Unpaid Care Work on women empowerment in Rwanda. According to Action Aid Rwanda survey, Rwandan rural women spend an average of 6-7 hours per day while men spend 1-3 hours per day.

Wrong mindset persists

The Director of Women Economic Empowerment unit at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Jean Bosco Murangira, highlights efforts in place to tackle UCW in Rwanda.

The ministry is working on a revision of the gender policy in Rwanda.

Murangira told The New Times that the ministry realized that mindsets around gender and workload inequality needs to be tackled more.

He announced that the ministry is partnering up with stakeholders to sensitize women on Unpaid Care Work.

"UCW is seen as a non-issue social obligation in societies. We will first need to encourage change of mindset," he said.

Transparency International Rwanda Chairperson, Marie-Immaculée Ingabire added that UCW is not only an inequality issue but a social justice problem.

"We use advocacy and sensitization to change wrong mindset. Good leadership persists when social injustice and inequality are scraped," Ingabire added.

To ease the burden of UCW on women, water and electricity facilities expressed their commitment to making water and electricity accessible for rural women.

"We are strengthening partnership with stakeholders to be able to get electricity in isolated areas. All Rwandans should have access to electricity by 2024," said Lucie Mukaruziga who represented Rwanda Energy Group.

Action Aid research prospects that it would take 209 years to close gender gap in time spent on unpaid care work at the current pace.

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