This International Women's Day the burning issue is Women's Unpaid Work. For thousands of years women have been taking care of the household but this important contribution to the perpetuation of the human race has not been adequately recognised by men. It all starts off with pregnancy. Then comes the crucial first year of post natal care of the child. The adult human brain now has increased in size so much that the proportional size of the brain of a new born baby would be so big that its head would not be able to come out of the womb. That is why the baby's head is small and the skull has a soft portion in the middle. Over the first year the brain grows fast to get to a size that is proportional to its requirements and only then does the skull bone form totally. Thus the human baby grows nine months in the womb of the mother and then again later nine more months in the womb of society cared for by the mother. Now this care is priceless and it cannot be quantified economically. Yet women are not given adequate recognition for this service. This is only the beginning. Later on throughout life most women sacrifice their own intellectual and economic development so as to ensure that the children are brought up well and the old are taken care of and the house is a home and not a hotel. All this goes unpaid and women have to beg for money from their husbands.
Feminist economists have done time use studies to try and quantify this immense service that women are performing for free. Some of them have suggested that this work should be quantified and included in the calculation of the Gross Domestic Product so as to show how great is the share of women. Others have expressed reservations saying that while this will inflate the women's share in GDP in nominal terms, in real terms they still wont be given their fair share and instead the nominally higher share in GDP will serve as an excuse to allocate less funds for women's development. Thus many including myself believe that the way forward is to insist that men also take up care work that they can. While bearing children and taking care of infants while they are breast feeding will remain the preserve of women all other house work can be shared by men so that women too can go out and work. Presently, when women do go out to work it is other women who get paid low wages to take care of house work, which is a proxy for demeaning the value of house work and keeping women occupied in it either as unpaid home makers or as low paid domestic help.
So the clarion call this International Women's day should be for men to take up home making work and give adequate recognition to the invaluable contribution that women have made to the human race.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to International Women's Day 2010: Women Can Build the Bridges of Social Change.