Human rights hearing on care

  • Date: 14/06/2023
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

ActionAid Ireland and National Women’s Council recently held a Human Rights Hearing on Care, with support from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

This Human Rights Hearing put central the experiences of marginalised women in Ireland. A panel of national and international experts then responded to what they heard with a view to informing constitutional change, influence policy and practice on care.

Watch back

You can watch the Hearing back here:

Part 1: Testimonies on valuing care: How do we change how care is viewed in Irish society?

Part 2: Testimonies on the economic impacts of care: How can we address economic inequality in relation to care?

Danielle Nelson, Great Care Co-Op, Shelly Gaynor independent living movement Ireland, Georgia Grogan, Doras Buí and Sarah McEntee, Doras Buí.

Why care and unpaid care is vital

Globally, and in Ireland, states have failed to recognise the social and economic value of care work (paid or not). Care is crucial to delivering human rights, and women’s rights in particular. We all both give and receive care, and that this is a deeply fulfilling and necessary human experience. Properly valuing care means having decent pay and working conditions for carers and a social welfare system to support them, gender responsive public services and better, paid family leave and accessible, affordable, quality childcare. And it means realising the human rights of disabled people of all ages, of older people, and of people with illnesses.

At the centre of economic, political and climate crises the world faces is the care work historically shouldered by women. Globally, women perform over three quarters of the unpaid care and domestic work. In Ireland, the care sector is characterised by precarious, low paid work. Domestic care workers are often migrant women of colour and face exploitation. The reliance on women to carry out most care and unpaid work has consequences for women’s economic equality.

Our economic model, which focuses on the market value of goods means that we don’t value the millions of hours of unpaid work carried out by women in the home and community, work that is unpaid but is vital to sustaining the economy and society. The continuing reliance on women to carry out the majority of care and unpaid work has consequences for women’s economic equality and creates significant vulnerabilities for women through the power and financial imbalance it creates. This is particularly significant for disabled people, lone parents and women from minority backgrounds.

The upcoming referendum on care

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality recommended a referendum to amend Article 41.2, the so-called “women in the home” article, to recognise the intrinsic importance of care and care work for our society. This will take place in November 2023 and is a unique opportunity to enshrine the value of care into the Constitution and will give a mandate to policy makers to promote investment in public services and social infrastructure. It would also provide for the State to take reasonable measures to support care within and outside the home.

More about the Human Rights Hearing

On the day we heard powerful and moving testimonies from:

  • Danielle Nielson, the Great Care Co-Op, a social enterprise that offers a whole-person approach to senior and elderly care;
  • Sarah McEntee Doras Bui, a parent’s alone resource centre.
  • Georgia Grogan, Family Carer and Advocate.
  • Fiona Weldon, Independent Living Movement Ireland.
  • Margaret Turley, Self-Advocate on Intellectual Disabilities.
  • Deborah Oniah, Representative from Direct Provision.

We also heard responses to testimonies by:

  • Ivana Bacik TD.
  • Huma Haq, Social Care Organiser, Public Services International, the Global Union of Federation of Workers in Public Services, who fight for the public provision of quality care services: for the benefit of those in need and the workers involved.
  • Diane Elson, economist and leading academic on care work.
  • Wangari Kinoti, Global Feminist Lead, Global Lead for Women’s Rights and Feminist Alternatives at ActionAid International, a feminist and pan Africanist who has worked in various roles in the national, regional and international women’s rights and social justice.

You can watch the entire event here: Part 1, Part 2.

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