By Takemore Mazuruse
Unpaid care work is both an important aspect of economic activity and an indispensable factor contributing to the well-being of individuals, their families and societies.
Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on Gender, an organisation that seeks to promote gender justice and equality is working to promote unpaid care and domestic work towards equality and gender justice which will in turn empower women towards self-emancipation and meaningful political participation.
The unpaid care work initiative, which is supported by Oxfam, seeks to demystify men’s participation in unpaid domestic care work, an anomaly that has for a long time disadvantaged women and put an unnecessary pressure on them in comparison to their male counterparts.
According to Padare/Enkundleni programmes manager Paul Vingi, unpaid care work is a barrier to equality and the organisation with support from its funding partners is engaging men with a view to educate and enlighten them on the importance of participating un unpaid care work.
“Unpaid and underpaid care and domestic work remains one of the most significant barriers to gender equality across the world,” Vingi said.
“This is particularly true for women and girls living in poverty, or those marginalised based on their ethnicity, income, race, indigeneity, education or migration status.
“The sad reality applies even for married women who have to forego their self-emancipation goals as they content with unpaid care work while their male counterparts enjoy all the liberties. We are, therefore, doing all we can to ensure parity and empower women through male education on how they can also participate in unpaid care work,” Vingi said.
True to Vingi’s sentiments, Padare/Enkundleni last week engaged musician and members of the media with a view to enlighten them on the need to support the unpaid care work drive using their influence.
Some of the musicians that attended the dialogue included Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria, Madiz, Derreck Mpofu, Bashupi, Trevor Dongo, Goodchild, King Shaddy and Guspy Warrior.
Of this initative, Zakaria thanked Padare and implored all citizens to fight for equality and justice because no man dies by participating in unpaid care work in their homes.
“I am a firm believer in equality and through my music, I have consistently implored men and women to love each other, live peacefully and promote co-existence through sharing the burden in the home,” Madzibaba said.
“I am happy to be part of this drive by Padare and I also thank Oxfam for weighing in with the much needed support.
“Women just like their male counterparts deserve all the support. I encourage men to play their part in ensuring they achieve their dreams and one such way is through participating in unpaid care work. It surely doesn’t kill you or harm you in any way as a man.”
Women receive the least State support for the provision of care in the form of access to care services, infrastructure and social protection – yet are most likely to have the greatest care responsibilities.
According to research findings, women and girl’s disproportionate responsibility for care work has profound consequences — it has perpetuated gender and economic inequalities and undermined their health and wellbeing, while enabling men’s dominance in business and politics.
As women enter their peak productive and reproductive years, their likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty increases from 4% to 22%, mainly due to unequal childcare responsibilities.
Heavy and unequal care responsibilities have also been shown to limit women’s participation in social and political activities, trapping women in cycles of time and income poverty.
According to Oxfam gender and women’s rights coordinator Regis Mututu, the drive for equitable and equal sharing of is ambitious, but achievable because women whether professional or powerful in other spaces will still need to participate in unpaid care, including cooking for their man as shown by the once published story of Germany Chancellor Angella Merkel where she is seen cooking for her husband after a long day running the country’s affairs.
“The work that Padare has done with support of the support of Oxfam has demonstrated the possibilities,” Matutu said.
“We have care work champions in Hatcliffe, Ture Ward in Zvishavane as well as Bubi in Matebeleland North and we have also engaged university students enlightening them about the same issue.
“There is genesis of progressive men demonstrating its possible for men to take a share in unpaid care work and also begin to challenge government that this is an economic and personal development issue.
“Men must go on paternity leave and share the responsibility of caring for a newly born child.
“Government is also doing its part though fully paid maternity leave and we hope to ride on that.
“We have also engaged policy makers including council and we hope they take note of some of the key issues affecting women including water supply.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has served to highlight the centrality of care while exposing the weakness of social and economic policies that have chronically undervalued and under-invested in women’s labour; paid and unpaid, for centuries and Padare hopes to break that jinx with its programmes.
Vingi said it was Padare’s hope that shared care work would also help enhance women’s political participation and ensure that they have a shot at their political goes without any hindrance just like their male counterparts.