Although progress has been made to increase women’s participation in Uganda’s labour market, many women still work in the informal sector or as unpaid care workers. The increasing number of women in the formal sector or paid work is not accompanied by a commensurate change in the gendered division of unpaid labour within the home and at the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the structural gender barriers and entrenched gender inequalities in unpaid care work, and its impact has hit women the hardest. If unpaid care work is not recognized, redistributed and reduced, it could claw back the progress made on gender equality.
With support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) under the GrOW East Africa Initiative, Makerere University School of Women and Gender Studies in collaboration with the Economic Policy Research Centre and CARE International in Uganda on 27th April 2021 launched a three-year project aimed at establishing modalities for minimizing the gender gap in unpaid work.
Launched under the theme: “From Promises to Actions: Shifting Gender Norms and Public Perceptions about Unpaid Care Work in Workplaces and Families in Uganda", the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) project seeks to establish mechanisms for changing public perceptions and attitudes related to unpaid care work in a cost-effective way.
Working with State and non State actors, the project team will implement an in-depth evaluative and action research to provide evidence, practical tools, and guidance to inform policies and actions to build a better and more equal world for Ugandan women and girls.
Using various models that have demonstrated effectiveness in shifting gender and social norms associated with intimate partner violence, the Project will identify the key drivers and risk factors for norms and behaviours that increase the burden of unpaid care work for women at the individual, family, community and institutional levels.
Addressing participants at the launch held at Protea Hotel in Kampala, the Principal Investigator, Prof. Grace Bantebya - Kyomuhendo expressed concern over the increasing burden of unpaid care work in Uganda. “Unpaid work is widely undervalued yet predominately done by women. Women and girls suffer more as they spend 24 hours a week engaged in unpaid care work. Action oriented research will greatly shape policy for minimizing this burden,” she noted. Prof. Bantebya said the project had been crafted in collaboration with key stakeholders from the civil society, private sector and religious and cultural leaders to ensure efficient uptake of research.
The launch of the project featured a panel discussion in which representatives from the Government, Civil Society, Academia and Religious leaders examined the impact of unpaid care work on women and social economic development. In his remarks, the 2nd Deputy Mufti of Uganda, Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waswa reechoed the need to enlighten men about their responsibilities towards women. “Out of ignorance, men and women think women are less capable to deliver. Scientifically, men and women have equal IQ and equal capacity to deliver in any sector. We need to avail equal opportunities for all and work towards eliminating practices that exploit women,” he said.
The Head, Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Ms. Margaret Kakande advised that it was important to identify and raise awareness about the key issues in unpaid care work so as to inform government decision on creating incentives that would foster male participation in gender roles.
Dr Paul Bukuluki, an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at Makerere University said there was need to review curriculum to address harmful gender and social norms affecting the distribution of unpaid work. “As academics, we need to talk with evidence through very quality research,” he said. He also underscored the importance of deliberate planning/programming in a bid to bridge the gender gap in all sectors.
The panel discussion was moderated by Dr Madina M. Guloba, Senior Research Fellow at EPRC.
In her remarks delivered by Ms. Bakeiha Doreen, the Minister of State for Gender and Culture, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Peace Regis Mutuuzo welcomed the project as an important initiative and contribution to government’s efforts towards the attainment of Vision 2040 and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda. “Notably, SDG 5: Target 5.4 calls for the recognition and valuation of unpaid care and domestic work and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family. Unfortunately, whereas unpaid care work is highly appreciated and paid in the developed world, it remains largely unappreciated and unpaid in developing countries, Uganda inclusive. More so, its disproportionate burden is shouldered by women as compared to men. Consequently, the disproportionate care burden shapes women’s decision on labour market entry and departure, work hours, choice of jobs and aspirations for career progression,” she explained, noting that it was critical to ensure sustained policy support towards eliminating gender and social norms that continue to drive unpaid care work in homes and workplaces.
The Minister extended gratitude to the International Development Research Centre for proving valuable funding for the project and pledged government support. “ As a Ministry, we look forward to a close working collaboration with you to ensure we get tangible outcomes that will steer the country further in attaining inclusiveness in social, political and economic participation of its citizens,” she noted.