Women in rural areas are still heavily engaged in domestic chores that are of no economic value, a trend that has greatly hampered women empowerment, according to a new report by an international NGO.
The report, to be released today, is based on studies done in Rwanda and Ghana. It highlights challenges faced by women smallholder farmers in both countries face on a daily basis.
Released by ActionAid, an international NGO whose primary aim is to fight poverty and injustice in developing countries, the report calls for intervention by government to ensure these chores are evenly distributed between men and women.
The report indicates that women in the two countries cited shortage of firewood as a key concern, adding that they spend between three and four hours daily collecting firewood.
It recommends that reducing and redistributing women’s unpaid chores can be done by prioritising public investments in areas such as early childhood education, health care, energy, woodlots and water.
In Rwanda, women smallholder farmers have limited solutions to this problem and they often use other sources of fuel such as rice stalks, dried banana leaves, and dried grasses, the report reads in part.
In Rwanda, the research was carried out in two districts of Nyanza and Gisagara, while in Ghana it was undertaken in Northern and Upper East region.
“Women may not be able to participate in paid-for work because of the unpaid for responsibilities like child care, fetching water, and collecting firewood,” Christina Kwangwari, the project manager, ActionAid International, said in an interview.
She said the low cost interventions such as boreholes, water harvesting, child care centres and woodlots can go a long way in reducing the burden.
The ActionAid official further explained that sharing of responsibilities between men and women is also necessary as part of the strategies to relieve women the burden of domestic unproductive work.
Due to too much time involved in unpaid work, the report indicates that women have limited time to participate in activities such as farming and commerce which can bring them some income to improve their lives.
During the survey, women called for government to roll out reliable child care centres and put in place labour-saving energy technologies like cooking stoves.
The restriction of women from engaging in economically viable activities has been cited as the major reason women remain subservient to their husbands in as far as making decisions in households is concerned.
The report shows that about 71 per cent of women smallholder farmers in Rwanda were unable to contribute toward decision making at household level.
During an interview with The New Times, John Bosco Murangira, the director in charge of women economic empowerment at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, said there was still a challenge of mindset among Rwandans on who should perform domestic chores.
“When you go to Serena Hotel, for example, it is men you will find in the kitchen cooking but the same men want all cooking done by the wife when they go back home. We are trying to sensitise Rwandans to change this mindset. It’s not written anywhere that a woman has to cook, fetch water, or collect firewood,” he said.
He added that government encourages women to get involved in income-generating activities and specific training and skills programmes were in place to empower them.
He observed that there is an initiative called Women and Youth Access to Finance Strategy through which women are given loans and grants to start up their own businesses. The amount given ranges between Rwf5 million and Rwf15 million, depending on the project.
The report recommended to the African Union to set clear gender targets and indicators in relation to women’s farming activities, as well as reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work within the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).
Jane Mutesi a member of Women with Vision cooperative, noted that the issue of unpaid care activities among women was still a challenge, saying that there was need for the government to intervene in order to enable women participate in economic activities.
“We do too much work that is not productive. Why would I be cooking at the same time carrying a baby yet my husband is just seated? I think we need to get involved in valuable activities like other men do,” she said.
The report was based on a survey conducted from November 2012 to March 2013.