International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women whilst also calling for action to accelerate gender parity. This is the perfect time to reflect on how the role of caring disproportionately burdens women and how our projects are succeeding at negating inequalities caused through caring.
Entrenched stereotypes around the world insist that men are breadwinners whilst women are homemakers and carers. These stereotypes are present today in reality with women across the world spending up to ten times more time on unpaid care work than men. Within our projects, we have found that women account for carers in 84% of cases, with this figure rising to as high as 93% in situations of caring for children with disabilities.
Caring responsibilities can inhibit the attainment of basic rights as a lack of free time can prevent carers from accessing education, employment opportunities and participating in the social sphere.
Throughout our work, we use two powerful tools that empower female carers and ensure their rights are obtained. Our first tool is to develop home-based, income-earning opportunities for carers. Yamuna, from Toripani village in Nepal, raises four children whilst caring for her mentally ill husband, and also tending to her own health issues that require medicine she has been unable to afford. Through our UK Aid funded project with partner LEADS Nepal, Yamuna has secured a small loan which enabled her to access training on how to make incense sticks at home and she is now selling these in her village and further afield. The profits generated from the venture are enough to sustain her family and purchase much-needed medicines.
Besides boosting the economic welfare of women, we also promote advocacy activities which gives women carers a platform for their needs and voices to be heard. Our system works by creating local level carers’ groups for mutual support. Representatives from these groups then meet at cluster and district level and engage with local government to discuss their needs. Women who used to rarely leave their homes are now engaging with powerful government officials and calling for the role of caring to be publicly recognised.
More recently, we are proud to see a combining of economic opportunities and support networks. Women who have developed skills through our projects are using their initiative and passing their new skills on to other carers within their communities, as is shown in Roshan’s story.
Our projects are unique programmes that enable women to continue to perform their caring duties, which they proudly do, whilst also offering them a chance to be financially independent and have their needs addressed at a decision-making level. Going forward, we will continue to extend our reach and ensure female carers from all parts of the world are not disproportionately burdened as a result of caring.