Have women been relegated to the back stage?

At a time when it is assumed that the place of the woman is the kitchen and homes with all the responsibilities, in recent times, the women however want the narrative to change. TOPE OLUSANYA in this report examines the trend.
It has been said that for the world to progress socially and economically in order to fulfil the overriding 2030 agenda objective of leaving no one behind, the entire population and its collective talents must be utilised.

In the recent past, this position has sparked up debates on the distribution of paid and unpaid work between women and men which has been on the political agendas of most developed countries.
It is believed that women in all society are more involved in unpaid care work than men. Women are said to devote more time significantly to household work than men. They work as cooks, child minders and cleaners in their own households much more than men.
Although, this division of labour is essential for the quality of life of men, women as well as children; however, the way it is shared especially between women and men, according to women advocates, is said to be the major concern about gender inequality.

This inequality, they say, constitutes serious barriers to women’s economic empowerment as they spend much of their time on unpaid work and less time on paid work.
Therefore, the conclusion that the amount of unpaid services between men and women vary among countries, social classes, family size and social norms. 
This debate however spurred the following reactions from various respondents.
Roles should be shared equal – OmekedoNkechi Ilochi-Omekedo, manager, Women’s Rights Programmes for ActionAid Nigeria believes that women need to be appreciated by all and sundry for the unpaid work they do otherwise the workload should be shared.

“Unpaid care work is work. It should be recognised, valued and appreciated by everyone: government, communities, families and even women themselves. Recognition means valuing it. We also talk about redistribution which means that the work-load should be shared within households so that women and girls would have time to also pursue other interests beyond household chores. So, men and boys should learn to share in house chores,” she maintained.

She also advocated for a working policy framework from the part of government to ease women the burden of unpaid care work.
 “Unpaid work done mostly by women should be reduced through concerted efforts by government and communities.This means making our policies to work, for instance, Nigeria has an Early Childhood Education policy where crèches are made available from 0-5 years within public schools and even in private schools. If this is implemented, the fees are affordable, then, women can have their babies cared for within specified hours and then have time for rest and other opportunities’’, she said.

On whether men and women should have equal time use in paid and unpaid work at home, she came up with a formula, saying the solution is in what she calls ‘3Rs’. “It is not about having the same time use really, but about the 3Rs- recognition implying valuing the unpaid care work by men and boys; redistribution which means a situation where men and boys can share in household chores as well as women and girls; and then reduction in which case everyone, from families, communities and government make effort to put in measures to ensure that facilities and services are available so that time spent on petty chores are reduced.
“There are labour saving machines such as dish washers, so if crèches, old people’s homes, water are made available, then time spent by poor families who cannot afford the services can be reduced,” she said.
From the African perspective Patrick Okohue, a journalist spoke from an African perspective. He believes that such debate should not even arise in the first place. According to him, “You see, this line of argument is alien to us here; it is un-African. If I help my wife to do household chores, she should count it a privilege. She shouldn’t lord it over me or have an expectation that because I did it for her yesterday, I should do it today again.
“Nobody is saying women should not work, but by nature, it is their duty to do household chores, cook, nurse babies and others. If I chose to help, she should count it a privilege and not a right.
“This argument of equal time use on unpaid care work should not even arise because the way we are going, one day women will say men should start helping them to carry pregnancy that they cannot be doing that alone.

“When you marry a woman, you pay her bride price. Right from that moment, she assumes that role of taking care of the home. There is nothing about gender equality in that. That is why the man needs to be responsible by making provisions available for the household.In the western world, we can look at that and that is why in the case of divorce, everything a man works for is given to the woman. Why don’t we say since we are agitating for equal time use in unpaid work at home, if anything happens, we should put everything together and share equally before going our separate ways, after all, we both worked to achieve those things,” he affirmed.
Women and job lossAnother feminine voice, one of the loudest in the country is that of the president, Centre for Change and Women Arise, Dr Joe Okei- Odumakin is of the opinion that men and women should have equal time use in unpaid work at the home front. 

She explained further with reference to the 4th industrial revolution saying, “One of the fundamental ways of  protecting the women against job loss in the 4th industrial revolution is our ability to sustain the advocacy against gender disparity which has become a major reactionary culture in our private and public work places and this is one of it. When women spend less time on unpaid work, it gives them more time for paid work, just like men. By that, they would be economically empowered and less dependent on men. 
“Our ability to ensure equality of work conditions, abolish disparity and promote competence above gender considerations would play a great role in this regard. A lot of our women and domestic workers are often seen like machines with too much responsibilities; our ability to promote equality and gender parity would eradicate this very backward societal orientation,’’ she concluded.

Women and job loss in digital economySpeaking on this, she said, ‘’Jobs loss is real in an ever competitive world of work and women are affected just as men are for many reasons. Most often, women are found in the informal sector and the sector is mostly unregulated with poor working conditions. This makes them vulnerable. Therefore, to protect women against job loss, it means that the sector in which women are mostly found should be regulated.
“The private sector is guilty of this the more where staff are hired and fired at the will of the company owner(s) without question. Women’s position even makes them more vulnerable to job loss. Another factor to consider is that not many women have the requisite skills or are in management/leadership positions. If job cuts are to happen within an institution or organisation, of course those in the lower ladder take the fall.
“Women therefore need to learn skills and be allowed within the management position. It is important to note that without education and other opportunities which some women in certain regions are denied of, achieving this becomes tricky.She, however, concluded by saying that, ‘’Give women space, give them tool, give them knowledge, give them opportunities, give them skill and there is no mountain they wouldn’t climb.”

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