Programme that tackles unpaid care and domestic work closes learning meeting in Kampala

Friday, August 5, 2022

More than 40 representatives from the Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care) program met in Kampala, Uganda, from August 1 to 5, to reflect on the challenges and successes of its unpaid care programming across Southern and Eastern Africa.

Across the continent and elsewhere in the world, unpaid care work sustains communities and economies. It provides essential care for children, sick and elderly people, and people with disabilities. However, this work falls disproportionately on women and girls, limiting their opportunities to participate in decent paid employment, education, leisure and political life.

According to the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), women in Uganda provide up to 20 hours per week of unpaid care work—twice as much time as men and boys. To address the unequal distribution of care, Oxfam, the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), Girls Forum International, Makerere University School of Gender Studies, and Forum for Rights Awareness and Monitoring (FORAMO) engaged with government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) and other actors at different levels to implement policy frameworks that respond to care, such as improving access to water and care-responsive infrastructure. The WE-Care programme likewise worked with men and boys to promote mindset and attitude change at the community level, so care is redistributed equally among family members.

“It is no longer strange to talk about care. But there is more work to do on budget and public investment in social sectors to reduce the care workload of women,” said Oxfam in Uganda Country Director Francis Odokorach.

For Rita Aciro, who leads the women’s rights organization UWONET, “we made some strides but there is a long way to go.” Aciro emphasized the need for conviction to connect the dots of care work to the broader challenges that women face, such as inequality, gender-based violence, and climate change. She added that it is impossible to address these challenges without addressing unpaid care work.

Meanwhile, in her keynote address to the participants of the learning event, Dr. Angela Nakafeero, Commissioner for Gender and Women Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, remarked that unpaid care work is a form of silent discrimination, affecting women’s access to education, employment, and social services. With Uganda also battling the adverse effects of climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, women’s unpaid care work is expected to further increase.

Dr. Nakefeero encouraged the participants to think more about advocacy work and collective action towards shifting the narratives on care being only a woman’s responsibility. “To move the care agenda forward, we need a multi-stakeholder approach, as well as transformative partnerships with other actors such as the private sector,” added Dr. Nakefeero.

During the Learning Event this week, Oxfam and partners from Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe aimed at developing a deeper and strategic understanding of the future of the WE-Care programme and document innovations from across the multi-country programme.