Women Bemoan Burden Of Unpaid Care Work

Women in Chimwara area in Lupane have bemoaned the burden of unpaid care work which they say has reduced their participation in other spheres of life. Speaking during a community meeting recently, the women said due to climate change they travel long distances in search of water and pastures for their livestock. Unpaid care work is defined as all activities that go towards caring for a household such as cooking, cleaning, collecting water and firewood, caring for the ill, elderly, and children for no pay.

In all of this, the women said they receive little or no assistance from their spouses due to the deep rooted patriarchal system. Gladys Nyoni said when they first settled in the area around 2001 grazing land and water sources were closer but in recent years due to climate change they have to travel long distances.

“When we got here around 2011, water sources and grazing lands were plenty, but now we struggle to find water sources and pastures nearby. We are even losing livestock to wild animals which are also running away from parks in search of food and water,” she said.

Siphiwe Nkala added that they are witnessing more cases of human-wildlife conflict as they fight for the limited water sources.  

Another participant who identified herself as MaNdlovu said the burden experienced by women is going to worsen as they approach the farming season.

“This is a farming season, after going to clear fields, as you know men are not really affected by the water situation at home. As a woman I will be expected to walk another 5km or 10km depending where you stay in search of water, by the moment I return from fetching water I will be hungry but again I will have to walk another 15km looking for livestock,” said Mandlovu.

Meanwhile, another participant Sifiso Sithole said most men do not offer any assistance as they claim these are roles reserved for women.  

“Most men are not partaking because they think that these are the roles of women as they tell us that they were not doing roles such as fetching water when growing up,” said Sithole.

“So, you find that even after coming back together from the fields, he just takes a nap while I am expected to go fetch water, fetch firewood.”

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights’ 2013 Report on unpaid care work, slanted responsibility for care entrenches women’s disproportionate vulnerability to poverty across their lifetime.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)

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