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.


thank you for this great article.

I am a mother myself, of an almost 10 month old son, so I know and understand from practice what you are talking about. However I would like to make a point by saying that many children are brought up by sngle mothers, in some cuntries the numbers being up to 2/3 of the families.

As I am a single mother myself I know that this rarely is a choice. In many situations the mother still wants to take the best care of the child/children, this meaning that, if she wants to be there for the children, she has to give up work.. In the same time no work has consequences for the finances and so a single mother comes to be strangled in a tight vicious circle. And sometimes, as in my case, the family is also too far to sustain the mother.

I believe that in the case of a single mother other rules have to be made as for her to be best supported by the society she so very much helps building, without a partner that could participate and share.

Dear Ioana, thank you for pointing out this lapse on my part. It is true that in today's situation many women have perforce to separate from their partners due mainly to patriarchal pressures and then they face a hard time bringing up their children alone. As you say it is the responsibility of society to ensure that single mothers are provided support in various ways. In the early years of humanity the rearing of children used to be the collective responsibility of the community. However, private property and patriarchy killed that admirable system.

Subhadra Khaperde India

I am so fortunate. The father of my children treated me as a slave. The next man I married treated me as a goddess, but was jealous of the attention I paid my children. This husband paid my debts before we married and handed his household over to my management. He also loved and supported all the family who came to us for help. He is my partner in everything, even though he fathered no children. He is a great blessing and a giant among men of my acquaintance.


Dear Yvette, some men are better and understand there responsibilities towards their partners and family. but such men are few and far between.

Subhadra Khaperde India