The drudgery of unpaid care work

The lack of childcare facilities and basic infrastructure, such as water and electricity, amplified the drudgery of women’s unpaid care work. Across the four countries, women reported being exhausted and experiencing physical ailments and injuries because of the long distances travelled to collect or buy water and firewood, and the arduousness of the task. As a female respondent in Lushoto, Tanzania noted:

Fetching water affects my health because I fetch a lot of water and I get the water far from my home so I get too tired walking while carrying a bucket of water, and also I get chest problems because of carrying a lot of buckets and climbing mountains with [heavy] loads.

(Cited in Zamhelli el al. 20 I7I>: 4)

Women in Nepal recurrently complained about lack of water and especially electricity, which impacted their ability to grind wheat into flour that they could then use for cooking.

If we had electricity, I would have finished my household work after returning from work. If we had gas we could have cooked faster unlike now.

(Hema Raul, Jumla, Nepal)

... the water taps are very far, if there were taps in various parts of the village it would be easier. The mills too are far from the houses. The mills in Jumla run on electricity but we hardly get electricity here. It would be nice to have mills in various locations in the village.

(Key Informant, Jumla, Nepal)

In Tanzania as well, the lack of water facilities affected women’s time use as they had to “suffer from long distance walks in search for water to water the vegetables” (Mama Harriet, Korogwe District, Tanzania). Women in Tanzania also spent large amounts of time travelling to access healthcare facilities due to lack of roads, and one woman expressed her concerns as follows:

[T]he government should extend clean water services to our homes and even electricity. We would also like some hospital in our area so that we access medical services from our neighbourhood. Our nearest government hospital is far and that distance is too much for the sick person in case of an emergency.

(Baba Robin, Luslioto, Tanzania)

The lack of water and electricity made childcare-related tasks, like feeding and bathing children, even more difficult. The lack of childcare facilitates across all 16 research sites gave women few alternatives and was particularly felt by women with children under the age of three.

The intensity of unpaid care work activities was also affected by seasonality in terms of weather conditions, as well as community and educational events such as festivals, children’s school exams, etc. During the hot, dr)' season, women spent longer times collecting water in Tanzania and India; while in the rainy season, it was hard to wash and dr)' clothes or find dr)' wood to make fires for cooking (Zambelli et al. 2017a).

We can conclude from the above discussion that unpaid care work was largely feminised across the research sites, with men’s participation characterised as sporadic at best. The lack of public services and infrastructure (including childcare, gas, electricity, water, and roads) emerged as the most important factor contributing to the drudgery of care work for women. This in turn limited women’s ability to rest and take care of themselves, as comes through clearly in this quote from an 18-year old woman living in urban India:

One has to lift [water] and get it. It is very far, you take it on your head and bring it, one’s head too hurts. Once you are back with water, one does all the work like cleaning and cooking, all the work, to bathe and clean the kids, take shower oneself, clean clothes. All the work and then there is no rest at all.

(Manjari Rajkumar (cited in Chopra and Zambelli 2017: 22))

However, this was not the only factor impacting women’s rest and wellbeing. As Figure 8.6 shows, women’s paid work also contributed significantly to their being unable to rest, second only to care work.

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