Number of women engaged in unpaid care work on the rise

More women are engaging in unpaid care work with the margin growing bigger in poor households
More women are engaging in unpaid care work with the margin growing bigger in poor households

Approximately 60 per cent of women in Kenya are housewives with the margin growing bigger in poor households.

Some choose to be housewives while others are forced by circumstances, this is according to Mary Amayamu.

“After retiring from my secretarial job, I decided to take care of my grandchildren,” says Amayamu, a secretary who retired when working for a Catholic firm.

As she washes utensils Amayamu notes: “It feels good to take care of your family personally.”

Amayamu is not alone. There are those who are housewives out of choice but others have been forced by circumstances. Two out of 10 women in middle class homes are housewives.

Rita Manoah, a mother of three children decided to quit her job when she realized that the maids she hired would steal food, cooking oil and even washing detergent.

“I think that I was so unlucky because most of the maids I hired were untrustworthy in their own ways,” says Manoah as she sweeps her backyard.

Mary Komoro, who owns a fertilizer enterprise manages the business from her house and, therefore, has enough time to do household chores.

“I have employed competitive workers in my firm. I manage the business from home so I don’t see the need of hiring a maid since I have plenty of time to do household chores,” says Komoro.

Business

While Komoro is able to run the business from the comfort of her home, Robai Bruku, a resident of Kibera slum says her husband advised that she takes care of the children and homes as he provides for the family.

“My husband told me to take care of our three children since his earnings are only enough to take care of family bills and not hiring of a house girl,” says Bruku as she breastfeeds her eight-month-old daughter.

However, there are those women who have faced challenges in terms of getting jobs. Some women have given up looking for employment and decided to stay at home, depending on their husbands.

Rose Atieno, a clearing and forward graduate, is one them. “I am just tired of applying for jobs which are not forthcoming and have decided to do household chores while depending on my husband,” explains Atieno.

Most of these women wash, cook, fetch water and take care of their children.

Most households in slum areas do not have running water and, therefore, women like Atieno have to wake up early to fetch water.

“I usually wake up early in the morning to fetch water, wash utensils and clothes and then cook food for the family,” explains Atieno.

Challenges

A typical housewife’s day starts at about 5 am and ends well after 10 pm. The woman is usually the first to wake up and the last to go to bed. Often she may not feed well because by the time she is done with the whole family, she is too tired to eat or food may have run out.

Despite of the sacrifices they make to keep their families running, most of these women are looked down upon by society as well as their peers and husbands.

According to Forbes Magazine, unpaid domestic work gives economies a huge boost but many governments have failed to value the work that is done by housewives and include it in the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Many women are primarily responsible for unpaid work including caring for the sick all over the world. This then makes men primarily responsible for wage labour.

This gender division of labour tends to benefit men and keeps women, by and large, unequal to men in the labour market as well in society. Even the women who work in the farms and contribute a huge amount of labour in the agricultural sector, about 80 per cent, are not paid for their work, and if they do it’s a bare minimum.

Atieno says that her husband does not accord her the respect she deserves. Unlike Atieno, Bruku’s husband is loving and caring but she always feels like she should do something to complement his income.

Atieno advises women to venture into income generating activities as this is the only way they can live decent lives.