Benja and Betty have lived together as man and wife for some time. Theirs is not a happy family. It is punctuated with fights and poor health. Betty does all the care work while Benya chats at the trading center with friends.
“I am a friend of Betty. We discuss everything together… Men are the head of the household. We must endure,” read a female participant acting as friend to the wife.
“I am a friend of Benja, we go to the drinking joint together… it is normal for men,” added a male participant acting as friend of the husband.
Another one, acting as the couple’s neighbour, read: “Betty works whole day [to prepare for the family]. It is her role. There is nothing we can do.”
Benja and Betty are fictional characters played in a skit to represent a family where care work burden is left to the woman while a man enjoys a drink at a joint with friends. It depicts the current attitudes towards unpaid care work in most households in Uganda and implores communities to change and share care work together.
The skit was played at a recent support training of Start, Awareness, Support, and Action (SASA) activists selected to help in educating and mobilizing their communities to recognize and reduce the burden on women. The trainings took place in September in Pallisa, Mpigi, Mbarara, and Masindi under the Uganda GrOW Unpaid Care Work project with more than 300 participants – men, women, and youth.
The project is titled: From promises to action: Shifting gender norms and public perceptions about unpaid care work in workplaces and families in Uganda. It is being led by Makerere University school of Women and Gender Studies. Economic Policy Research Centre and Care International in Uganda. The project is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.
Skits and storytelling are one of the methods employed to create awareness about unpaid care work in the intervention communities. The trained participants, who included religious leaders, village opinion leaders, and community leaders, will carry out awareness campaigns for their communities and informal gatherings.
In the Betty and Benja skit, an elder, a doctor, a neighbour and police person acted parts portraying the attitude attached on the impact of unpaid care work. For instance, the doctor and a policeman say sometimes Betty comes to them injured from the burden of UCW work but say “there is nothing they can do.”
In Uganda, women spend five and a half hours per day doing unpaid care work, according to this study’s survey. Men only spend 3.5 hours on unpaid care work. Meanwhile, men spend at least 7.4 hours compared to 5.3hrs for women in paid employment.
The skit concludes with participants’ realization that it was to the family and communities’ advantage that care work burden is shared among household’s members. This will ensure that the burden is not carried by one person who is usually the woman.
Training participants received a T-shirt apiece with poster portraying several households where a man and woman help each other at home. At the back, the T-shirt has an inscription, Sharing Housework for a Happy and Healthy Family”.
Participants were also giving a long cooking apron. The apron also carried the sketch of families where a man and a woman help each other to do care work at home.
Caroline Kayinza Madina,
Opwateta sub-county, Pallisa district, SASA Activist.
In our village we have a problem. Much of the work at home is left to the woman to do. I have learnt a lot in this training and as we go back to our villages, much is going to change as we train our friends from the community. I am happy that the project thought of community because we have been suffering as women.
Rev. Edward Kabuye, Mpigi district
I thank God who called me to serve as a priest. One thing I thank God about is the issue of working together with my wife. Everything we do at home, including care work, I work with my wife. And this has helped us to make our children work with us. These days, men look as the wife does everything – from fetching water and collecting firewood. What I tell men is that we should not leave our wives to do everything at home. When we work together, we build our homes. This is what I preach. It means families will be able to leave poverty, educate their children when they work together.
My parishioners visited me and were surprised to see a priest who collected firewood, washed clothes, and cleaned the compound.
Yiga Abdu Karim, Bulunda Mpigi
My situation was bad before I attended the training. I never thought that at once I would ever wake up and do housework or help my wife at home. When I was trained that a man should be helping with work at home, I first hesitated but later realized that it is the right thing to do.
We now share work with my wife. When she is cleaning, I collect firewood. When there is no water, I go and fetch it. My family changed.
I used not to show my wife the money I made but now show her and give her accountability. We are now happy. We have learned. My wife and I started a business selling juice and secondhand clothes. When I am making the juice, she packs it. We are now trying to educate people in my community that things should change, and it’s not true that when one is helping their wife, they have been bewitched.