Feminisation of Unpaid Labour

Leonida Odongo
Posted January 12, 2017

In my community women engage in many activities not only within urban settings but in rural areas as well. Within the household women take up domestic chores to ensure the family stays in a clean environment, children go to school and have food to sustain their lives. The tasks undertaken by women depends on the number of children she has, the ages of the children and extra responsibilities that she has to undertake within the immediate family as well as outside the immediate family.

Women are often the cooks but the last to eat and the earliest to wake up. Within household women clean dishes; make the house a conducive environment. When women cook they add value to the nutrition of the family, they ensure food is available hence are buffers to household food shortage. They clean the house thus protecting entire families from diseases and economically this saves the family money going to and from hospital. But say to say nobody ever calculates this contribution.

Within communities women are responsible for provision of psychosocial support, when the going gets tough due to economic hardships and spouses don't see each eye to eye, it’s women who take up the role of visiting each other, providing that ear to one’s problems. They accompany children to school, listen to teachers complain about children and students performances. They put on a bright smile to reassure the teacher that the student will improve; while in actual sense she (the mother) never even stepped into a classroom but is expected in their role as mothers child do their undone homework.

Women keep the homestead warm during rainy seasons. Mini winter season in July in Kenya is bitingly cold, its our mothers, sisters and daughters who fetch firewood in the forests to ensure fire is burning and no one dies from the cold or gets chest infections.

If the family has cattle, it's the role of women to ensure that the cattle have eaten, have had water and are safe. Men mostly come in to make decisions about resources or when the family’s lone cow is to be sold, that is when they decide what is to be done with the money, the woman, who did the arduous task of taking care the cow is pushed to the periphery.

Within informal settlement women are the entrepreneurs, they engage in petty trade that ensures whatever goods and services one is looking for is accessible. In quarries, they break the stones but since its piece work and depends on how many stones one can crush, their labour melts in thin air like the morning mist.

Within communities women are volunteer health care providers, in communities hard hit by HIV/AIDS it's the girl child who is often the first to be withdraw from school to take up care roles. Women are nurses within households in remote localities where the nearest hospital hundreds of miles away. Women act as midwives in situations where healthcare is still a mirage.Additionally, women provide a steady supply of water for the households.

Within grassroots organizations, women undertake advocacy to promote rights, they amplify community issues and resist various forms of oppressive systems. They mobilize communities; they provide education to raise awareness about issues affecting their communities. They report cases of abuse and thus play the role of an informal statistician.

Within farming communities, women are responsible for seed selection, exchanging seeds and developing seed banks. As such women are the scientists who ensure genetic regeneration of indigenous seeds. Women also undertake crop production roles; they are responsible for tilling the land, planting crops, weeding and harvesting. When they take the produce to the market and bring the money home, decisions on expenditure shifts from women to men.

Women work can be more recognized if all the work they do is quantified and a monetary tag allocated to it. For instance the social contribution of women taking children to school, helping them with homework, cooking and cleaning the house can be directly quantified if linked to the amount of confusion that it likely to occur in that household if for just for one hour women failed to play their support roles or the loss of man hours the males in the house would experience if women took a break from their support roles.

It is worth concluding that women are the cogs without which the world cannot revolve.

Comments 4

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Jill Langhus
Jan 13, 2017
Jan 13, 2017

Welcome to World Pulse Leonida, So, in short the women of Kenya are wonder women:-) I wish that all the work that women were doing worldwide was recognized... perhaps one day, sooner rather than later, we will get there; one country at a time. The grassroots organizations that you mentioned, what are they? What do they do? Are you involved in them? Thanks for your honest account of all the work women are doing in your community. I look forward to seeing more posts from you, and to hearing what work is being done to change these hard-wired roles that women perform there.

Leonida Odongo
Jan 13, 2017
Jan 13, 2017

Dear Jlaghus , thank you for  getting in touch with me.It's not by choice that  Kenyan women do so much work,  for us , Kenya is a highly patriarchal society  and women are treated in many spheres as second class citizens.

Grassroots  organizations are formed by women coming together  to help one another , or to  save money together through what is known as table banking.Yes I am involved with several of the  grassroots organisations .Some  come together  for purposes of empowering each other on human rights issues and follow up on cases of rights violations.Some are groups of women who provide care roles within urban slums for families with members living with HIV/AIDS and take up the roles  volunteer community health workers.Some of the women are small holder farmers and carry out subsistence farming to enable them pay school fees for their children.

I look forward to more sharing,learning  and connecting  from this platform

Jan 15, 2017
Jan 15, 2017

Dear Leonida,

It's truly remarkable, the many roles women are playing in your country, community and around the world. Farmers, scientists, advocates, nurses, midwives, entrepreneurs, cooks, housecleaners, therapists, and the list goes on.  I've long felt that the daily home, family and community work done by women should be measured and accounted for.  That is one way to add recognized value to all this labor, and much of it labors of love.  Another way is to keep sharing stories and talking about our experience, which you've done here.  Welcome to world pulse and please keep sharing your stories!



Leonida Odongo
Jan 17, 2017
Jan 17, 2017

Dear Sister,

Thank you for the worlds of encouragement.It's about time women's unpaid work got quantified.

In solidarity