Caring activities such as childminding, caring for elderly relatives cooking and cleaning are essential to maintaining our societies. But the huge imbalance in how care is divided means that women and girls can be blocked from getting an education, working outside the home, participating in political decision making or having any leisure time.
Unpaid care work is more difficult in poor communities, where not only are there no time-saving devices such as dishwashers and washing machines, but there is often no mains water or electricity.
Here Duong Van Pa, 34, tells his story.
Pa and his wife, Vuong Thi Sung, 29, have three young children and are from the H’Mong ethnic minority group. Pa said: “According to our H’mong tradition, women had to take good care of the housework so their husbands could go out to make a living for the family.”
“My wife Sung often complained about the heavy workload at home. She had to wake up at 4 am to feed the pigs and chickens, then cook breakfast. She cleaned the house, tended the vegetables and herbs in our small garden, cut some hay, washed dirty clothes, prepared meals and when the children were home, she bathed them and fed the smallest one while we all had dinner.“
“I sometimes helped her with teaching the children, but that was it.
She was extremely sad and exhausted, but I didn’t realise the reason behind her distress and thought she pretended to get my attention.”
Care Diary in Action
Pa is one of 5,670 people taking part in the Unpaid Care Work Programme implemented by ActionAid Vietnam, with support from ActionAid Ireland. The programme using a care diary to track how many hours a day both partners were spending on unpaid care work.
The results were amazing. Pa told us: “For the first time, I recognised the burden put on my wife’s shoulders. She was silenced and had to endure mental and physical pressure to keep the family happy. Meanwhile, I was comfortably minding my own business and never lent her a helping hand. Now I help my wife.”
After working with the community, ActionAid Vietnam then made recommendations for alternative policy approaches to the Government of Vietnam to reduce and redistribute unpaid care work. As a result, the Vietnamese ministry responsible for gender equality has decided to include unpaid care work as one of the indicators to assess how much progress Vietnam has achieved in terms of equality.