As this letter addresses my statement as IAW President, I first must say that I consider the accusation made against my metaphor far-fetched. However, Hon. President Manganara does provide a valuable analysis of the situation of unpaid women's work in the home which deserves more attention as well as conversation here. I look forward to reading suggestions in the comments on what concrete measures could be taken on the international level to remedy this problem.
Alison Brown, IAW President
Reaction on Alison Brown's first President's Letter
I circulate a comment on Alison’s first letter as President of IAW to our membership which has to do with the definition of the concept of care and the housekeeping activities linked to it. In my opinion the definition is based on a position that has nothing to do with feminism as it aims at enforcing the traditional role of women within the family and not only that. It aims at extending this role and the housekeeping activities that are linked to it at all levels of government and industry where women might be working. In other words, working women will not work under the same conditions with men. They will be asked to promote the traditional women’s role at the level of their work which will not be based on their qualifications and knowledge but on traditional stereotypes and norms. This is a very conservative and unacceptable approach to the role of women to say the least.
Unpaid and domestic work refers to non-remunerated activities performed within the household for its maintenance and well-being such as child care, looking after aged parents etc.
However, we have to realize that gender equality objectives are hindered by increased care responsibilities and this must be brought to the attention of all women and men. Measures should be taken to give an end to this unacceptable situation Women’s movements have fought since long for the recognition of unpaid domestic work and for its reduction through the provision of public services and infrastructure. They have also fought for the redistribution of unpaid domestic work so that men can share more of this burden.
The unequal distribution of caring responsibilities is linked to discriminatory social institutions and stereotypes based on traditional gender roles. The systems and structures of our world based on millennia of male domination are holding back women in all areas. Gender inequality in unpaid care work is the missing link in the analysis of gender gaps in labor outcomes, such as labor force participation, wages, job quality etc. Globally therefore the expectation that women should be the main providers of unpaid care work is socially constructed and enforced by gender norms and stereotypes. Governments should tackle these norms as a first step in redistributing responsibilities for care between women and men. They should also implement policies favorable to burden sharing. What should be done to build this world better? Time has come to develop counter strategies from a feminist perspective. Economies are not gender neutral and women’s experiences should be at the center of economic analyses as feminist economists are saying. We need to redefine our economy. We need new concepts to bring into the heart of the understanding of the economy. Care economy is one such concept. Unpaid care sustains families and communities on a day-to-day basis and from one generation to the next. So care makes society function. Yet unpaid care work remains, invisible, undervalued and neglected in economic and social policy making. The other concept we should integrate into our understanding of economy is reproductive economy which is the key to the continuation of the social order. We should therefore all work for a feminist economic model which is not solely based on economic growth which reproduces gender inequalities but one that prioritizes people over profits. We need a genuine transformation of the global order that cannot happen unless we acknowledge, support and share the collective burden of reproductive labor and care work in our health and social systems.
Joanna will be pleased to know that the issue of unpaid work is once again, as in years past, being taken up by the Commission on the Status of Women in its 67th Session.
This is just the first draft of this year’s document, but it is all there:
28. The Commission recognizes that women and girls undertake a disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, which limits women’s ability to participate in decision-making processes and occupy leadership positions, and poses significant constraints on women’s and girls’ education and training, and on women’s economic opportunities and entrepreneurial activities including in the context of innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age. It stresses the need to recognize and adopt measures to reduce, redistribute and value unpaid care and domestic work by promoting the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men within the household and by prioritizing, inter alia, sustainable infrastructure, social protection policies and accessible, affordable and quality social services, including care services, childcare and maternity, paternity or parental leave. (Based on CSW66 (para 47), CSW65 (para 46), CSW63 (para 23), CSW62 (para 9), CSW61 (para 30))
37. The Commission urges governments at all levels and as appropriate, with the relevant entities of the United Nations system and international and regional organizations, within their respective mandates and bearing in mind national priorities, and invites civil society, inter alia, women’s organizations, youth-led organizations, academic and research institutions, feminist groups, faith-based organizations, the private sector and national human rights institutions, where they exist, and other relevant stakeholders, as applicable, to take the following actions: (Based on CSW66 (para 62), CSW65 (para 61), CSW63 (para 47), CSW62 (para 46), CSW61 (para 40), CSW60 (para 23))
(bb) Take all appropriate measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work by promoting work-life balance, the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men within households and men’s and boys’ equitable sharing of responsibilities with respect to care and household work, including men’s responsibilities as fathers and caregivers, through flexibility in working arrangements, without reductions in labour and social protections, support for breastfeeding mothers, the provision of infrastructure, technology and public services, such as water and sanitation, renewable energy, transport and information and communications technology, and the implementation and promotion of legislation and policies, such as maternity, paternity, parental and other leave schemes, as well as accessible, affordable and quality social services, including childcare and care facilities for children and other dependents, take steps to measure the value of this work in order to determine its contribution to the national economy, and challenge gender stereotypes and negative social norms in order to create an enabling environment for women’s and girls’ empowerment in the context of innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age; (Based on CSW66 (para (jj)), CSW65 (para (yy)), CSW63 (para (k)), CSW62 (para (g)), CSW61 (para (z)), CSW60 (para (g)
The big problem is finding the funds to pay what women undoubtedly earn and deserve.
La condition de la femme est plus que d’actualité est demeure la pierre angulaire des inégalités et des revendications féministes. Le problème de salaire équitable ne se pose pas dans la majorité des PMA certes, mais la question des charges domestiques de la femme y demeure, à cause de la qualité approximative de vie, qui maintient les hommes dans la paresse ou dans le manque de volonté de participer aux travaux domestiques. Un membre du jury de la soutenance de ma thèse s’est confié en ces termes je cite : « J’ai eu vraiment honte en suivant ta présentation qui vient de m’ouvrir les yeux sur le poids des charges de mon épouse. Figure-toi que je ne sais où se trouve les verres à boire et comment brancher une bouteille de gaz. Pire, quand je suis malade ma femme va au travail en retard ou n’y va pas du tout pour être à mes soins, comme c’est le cas avec les enfants. Mais quand c’est elle qui est alitée je vaque à mes occupations professionnelles et d’ailleurs c’est peut-être après des jours ou en cas d’aggravation que je me rends compte qu’elle est souffrante. » Les solutions pragmatiques qui puissent alléger la tache aux femmes pour prétendre à la réduction des inégalités et augmenter la chance pour un développement harmonieux paraissent la sensibilisation et le dialogue avec les hommes et jeunes ainsi que l’amélioration de cadre et de la qualité de vie des ménages surtout dans les PMA où les stéréotypes sont encore très encrés et le manque d’infrastructures et des services publics très criardes. Un homme qui fait la tâche ménagère serait envouté par son épouse. Les crèches, les machines à laver, une cuisine moderne par exemple relèveraient du luxe exclusivement réservé aux riches.
En diplomatie, très peu de conjoint accepte suivre leur épouse à leur poste d’affectation hors de leur pays de résidence habituelle à cause des indemnités insignifiantes contraignant beaucoup au divorce, au célibat ou encore aux choix du foyer conjugal en lieu et place de leur travail. Nous avons lancé à cet effet un slogan : « Pour l’émancipation des femmes, il n’y a pas de choix à faire entre son foyer conjugal et son travail ».
Les pays scandinaves paraissent en avance avec les congés de paternité mais reste encore à vérifier le nombre d’hommes qui s’y adonnent et en mettent au profit du ménage. Dans tous les cas, le combat reste loin d’être terminé et le travail de termites doit se poursuivre.