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Haki Nawiri Afrika

Feminisation of Unpaid Labour

In my community women engage in many activities not only within urban settings but in rural areas as well. Within the household women take up domestic chores to ensure the family stays in a clean environment, children go to school and have food to sustain their lives. The tasks undertaken by women depends on the number of children she has, the ages of the children and extra responsibilities that she has to undertake within the immediate family as well as outside the immediate family.

Women are often the cooks but the last to eat and the earliest to wake up. Within household women clean dishes; make the house a conducive environment. When women cook they add value to the nutrition of the family, they ensure food is available hence are buffers to household food shortage. They clean the house thus protecting entire families from diseases and economically this saves the family money going to and from hospital. But say to say nobody ever calculates this contribution.

Within communities women are responsible for provision of psychosocial support, when the going gets tough due to economic hardships and spouses don’t see each eye to eye, it’s women who take up the role of visiting each other, providing that ear to one’s problems. They accompany children to school, listen to teachers complain about children and students performances. They put on a bright smile to reassure the teacher that the student will improve; while in actual sense she (the mother) never even stepped into a classroom but is expected in their role as mothers child do their undone homework.

Women keep the homestead warm during rainy seasons. Mini winter season in July in Kenya is bitingly cold, its our mothers, sisters and daughters who fetch firewood in the forests to ensure fire is burning and no one dies from the cold or gets chest infections.

If the family has cattle, it’s the role of women to ensure that the cattle have eaten, have had water and are safe. Men mostly come in to make decisions about resources or when the family’s lone cow is to be sold, that is when they decide what is to be done with the money, the woman, who did the arduous task of taking care the cow is pushed to the periphery.

Within informal settlement women are the entrepreneurs, they engage in petty trade that ensures whatever goods and services one is looking for is accessible. In quarries, they break the stones but since its piece work and depends on how many stones one can crush, their labour melts in thin air like the morning mist.

Within communities women are volunteer health care providers, in communities hard hit by HIV/AIDS it’s the girl child who is often the first to be withdraw from school to take up care roles. Women are nurses within households in remote localities where the nearest hospital hundreds of miles away. Women act as midwives in situations where healthcare is still a mirage.Additionally, women provide a steady supply of water for the households.

Within grassroots organizations, women undertake advocacy to promote rights, they amplify community issues and resist various forms of oppressive systems. They mobilize communities; they provide education to raise awareness about issues affecting their communities. They report cases of abuse and thus play the role of an informal statistician.

Within farming communities, women are responsible for seed selection, exchanging seeds and developing seed banks. As such women are the scientists who ensure genetic regeneration of indigenous seeds. Women also undertake crop production roles; they are responsible for tilling the land, planting crops, weeding and harvesting. When they take the produce to the market and bring the money home, decisions on expenditure shifts from women to men.

Women work can be more recognized if all the work they do is quantified and a monetary tag allocated to it. For instance the social contribution of women taking children to school, helping them with homework, cooking and cleaning the house can be directly quantified if linked to the amount of confusion that it likely to occur in that household if for just for one hour women failed to play their support roles or the loss of man hours the males in the house would experience if women took a break from their support roles.

It is worth concluding that women are the cogs without which the world cannot revolve.

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