“Women’s economic empowerment is a mirage if we don’t also take into account the unpaid work they are doing in the home. In most countries, women – especially those living in poverty - work longer hours than men when unpaid work is taken into account, yet they receive lower earnings and less recognition.
Heavy and unequal care responsibilities are a norm that is taken for granted and stand as a major barrier to gender equality, taking up women’s time and denying their equal enjoyment of the rights to education, decent work, health and participation in government, among others.
Unpaid care work such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly entrenches women’s poverty and social exclusion when it is not socially recognized and shared. Care should be a social and collective responsibility for men and women and supported by the State, rather than falling entirely on women’s shoulders.
Undoubtedly, care is a positive and irreplaceable social good and providing care can bring great fulfillment and satisfaction. Unpaid care work is at the foundation of our societies, and it is crucial for economic growth and social development. However, it has been largely overlooked or taken for granted by policy makers.
For the sake of human rights and equitable, sustainable development, we cannot afford to ignore unpaid care work, and the UN post-2015 development agenda must include such commitment.
On International Women’s day, I call on policy makers to stop looking away from the women in the kitchen, by the bedside, and at the water well, and instead celebrate them by taking concrete steps to recognize, reduce and redistribute the burdens of unpaid care work.
This is a necessary condition to achieve gender equality, sustainable development and full enjoyment of women’s rights.”
Magdalena Sepúlveda (Chile) was appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She has extensive experience in economic, social and cultural rights and holds a PhD in international human rights law from Utrecht University. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/
Check the Special Rapporteur’s “Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty” (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/
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