• Authored By: Alon Mwesigwa
26 Sep 2021

There is a notable shift by some men going out of the way to share some of unpaid care work with their wives, a study has said.

These men, however, find themselves being sanctioned by their peers and community, instilling fear in those that would want to follow suit. Women still carry an excessively high burden of unpaid care work – with nine of ten females compared to five out ten for men burdened by unpaid care work.

The formative study by the Makerere University School of Women and Gender Studies noted that there were progressive changes where men are starting to share unpaid care work with their wives but some faced rebuke from colleagues and community in general.

Sharing care work at home benefits the entire family. Photo/Oxfam

The study is part of the three-year GrOW project supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to redress unpaid care work in Uganda. It is being done in collaboration with the Economic Policy Research Centre and Care International Uganda.

The formative study results were presented on September 23, 2021 by professor Grace Kumuhendo-Bantebya, the principal investigator, and professors Florence Muhanguzi, and Paul Bukuluki, the co-investigators.

On the sanctions for men who share care work, a respondent said: “When most see you work together with your family it means that the woman bewitched you. This kind of thinking is there especially in the village. When they find you there with your wife and children and maybe I have decided to bathe the child, they will say you are bewitched.”

Another added:We have such men in the community who participate in unpaid care work and most times such men are laughed about and described as if their wives do not respect them and some are believed to have been bewitched their wives to get them to do such jobs…”

The study found that men are starting to embrace care work traditionally assigned to women such as fetching water, firewood, carrying food from garden to the home, cleaning compound. Women are also taking on nontraditional responsibilities to provide for the family e.g., paying for food, contributing to rent /housing and meeting costs of health care.

In some instances, the study noted, men pay to offset care work costs through hiring and paying for maids in urban areas. Women’s engagement in paid work and income generation is desired and appreciated by both men and women

Angela Nakafeero, the commissioner gender at the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development, said there was need to “strengthen women’s activism within government institutions.”

She added that “there is need to be very careful and clear as we package our language to the policy makers on the kind of interventions that should be undertaken.”

Florence Asiimwe, the Woman MP for Masindi district, said: “Unpaid care remains a burden shouldered by women compared to males. Unpaid care work in Uganda remains pronounced in rural areas compared to urban areas”

Prof Sarah Ssali, the dean of the School of Women and Gender Studies, said the negative gender norms can be harmful and need to be disrupted and intentionally interrogated – the very essence of the three-year GrOW study.

“The study is timely as it furthers the debate about these things and hopefully after three years, it will provide us with an opportunity or with answers [to understand unpaid care and how to redress it]”

The formative study sought to map out the Gender Social Norms (GSN) and perceptions on unpaid care work at family, community and institutional levels in order to inform the needed interventions to address women’s disproportionate care burden.

Prof. Grace Kyomuhendo-Bantebya, the principal investigator. Photo/EPRC

It also helps understand the key influencers of GSN in the family, community and work places

The study was done in Masindi, Palisa, Mpigi, and Mbarara. It noted that on the whole, both men and women struggled to understand the concept of unpaid care work. For many, it sounded new, out of place or even awkward.

“It was not easy for them to relate to payment of care for loved ones, family,” the study noted. This means a lot more effort is needed to make the public appreciate unpaid care work and how it can be redressed and redistributed.

Watch the study launch summary

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