International Women’s Day Today

Reducing the burden of women’s unpaid care work

ActionAid Ghana calls for greater recognition and redistribution of the care burden

Saturday March 8, 2014 is International Women’s Day, a special occasion celebrated around the world to draw attention to the invaluable contributions by women towards the development and prosperity of our world. The day is also set aside to highlight the many social inequities and gender disadvantages in the political and economic lives of many countries.

However, women have mostly been discriminated against in the sharing of opportunities and resources, thereby rendering many of them poor and economically dependent on men for survival and sustenance. As a result, women, especially the rural poor, live in unacceptable conditions, where opportunities for personal advancement and economic success continue to elude them.

On this important occasion of the International Women’s Day, ActionAid Ghana recognizes the enormous sacrifices women have been making to sustain their families and by extension, the national economy. In many homes, women multitask to provide a variety of domestic and social services to keep their children in school, care for the aged and put food on the table.

In rural communities, women walk several miles to fetch firewood and water for their families. Generally, women are responsible for the health, educational and psychological needs of members of their households.

In subsistence agriculture, women are not only denied their right to land and farming innovations, they are saddled with difficult tasks such as weeding, planting of crops and harvesting and conveying of farm produce. These sacrifices are unpaid and usually not quantified in monetary terms – and these are classified as ‘’Unpaid Care Work’’.

Unpaid care work is a productive activity that has no remuneration and satisfies people around the provider. The activity yields an output which is not recognized in financial terms, or quantified in time, energy and value.

While these sacrifices are crucial to the survival of many families, women are generally not accorded adequate support. These critical functions are mostly taken for granted and generally not rewarded financially. In many communities, there is the presumption of a gendered segregation of responsibilities, where women are required to perform domestic tasks to satisfy family and social expectations.

They have little or no time for leisure or to engage in any productive economic activities, thereby perpetuating gender stereotypes and the associated issues of poverty and discrimination. They are, therefore, unable to engage in profit making ventures usually undertaken by men.

To reduce the burden of unpaid care work on women, ActionAid Ghana has conducted a baseline study in some rural communities, where women are subjected to the ordeal of unpaid care work. Our study found that the costs and burden of care are unequally borne across gender and class, with 75% of unpaid care work undertaken by women while 60% of activities involving men are paid for and recognized. Only 13% of women in the survey areas earned any income while 93% of men reported that the roles of women are critical to the well-being and survival of their families.

On this important day dedicated to women, ActionAid Ghana, a rights based organization working in 226 communities in Ghana, is calling for a national conversation on unpaid care work, to challenge government and other key actors to:

Recognise, reduce and redistribute the burden of unpaid care work on women

Demand the quantification of women’s unpaid care work as part of the country’s services sector and Gross National Product (GDP),

Increase investment in child care, water, and health care facilities in poor and deprived communities, to ease the burden on women and girls in Ghana, and

Increase investment in agricultural extension services to women smallholder farmers, and to address the reproductive challenges identified in the present agricultural policy document.


Issued by: Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin

Public Relations and Communications Coordinator