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Unpaid care work

Gender, conflict and violence

Our work focuses on highlighting the importance of unpaid care work in women’s lives. We demonstrate the ill effects of unpaid care work on women’s and girls’ mental, emotional and physical health, and on their mobility and time, calling for an international and national recognition of unpaid care work in designing policies around social protection, early childhood development and women’s economic empowerment. To support this we have created policy briefs focusing on key issues, including:   highlighting the link between paid work and unpaid care work; a focus on carers of people suffering from mental health issues; and the importance of taxation for women’s rights.

We work with partners to raise the visibility of this issue in their country contexts, as well as calling for action at the international level (through inclusion of this as a target in Goal five of the SDGs; and the position paper for the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment). Our objective is that public policy can implement the three Rs:[1] 

  • Recognition of the role of women and girls in the provision of unpaid care, as well as its social and economic value.
  • Reduction in the drudgery and time burden of unpaid care, especially for women living in poverty.
  • Redistribution of unpaid care work: from women to men, and from the family to communities and the state.

Our work also highlights the politics of policy processes, throwing light on issues of power and different negotiation tactics that work in different contexts to make unpaid care work visible.

Within all societies, women and girls undertake the majority of unpaid care work due to persistent and sticky gender norms. Working with gender norms has often encountered push back, at both the family/community and policy levels. Unequal care work responsibilities often go hand in hand with violence against women and girls – as both are consequences of the same prevailing patriarchal order. 

Violence is often used as a means to ensure that women remain in their existing gender roles. It is used as a punitive measure when care work responsibilities are too heavy and therefore care may not be adequately provided. Women’s engagement in paid work often exacerbates these tensions, as women’s time poverty deepens. Violence also interacts with care in insidious ways: women may be less economically independent because of their heavy care work responsibilities. Low control over assets and resources further leaves women and girls more vulnerable to violence.