Pandemic burdens women with more household chores but they go unappreciated
News Desk :
Jannatul Rupi, a health assistant in Kurigram's Belgachhi, has been overburdened with tasks both at home and work for the past six months since the coronavirus epidemic struck Bangladesh, reports bdnews24.com
She has to do all the household chores now after her domestic help left her job.
She has her hands full cooking, cleaning, child minding, and running errands; on top of that she has to rush whenever her office calls. Rupi has no time to breathe easy.
She could not even take Fridays off in the first few months after the pandemic broke out when people from abroad and Dhaka were returning to their village homes, said Rupi. She had to contact the returnees and ensure they were in quarantine.
"We need to be ready to respond to call of duty anytime. The workload has doubled now. Also, I have to do all the household chores with a little help from my daughter," she said.
Her husband, a businessman, remains busy with his work and is unable to lend her a hand in household chores, Rupi said.
"Now I spend four to five hours doing household chores. There's no leisure time for me. One of them would never get (disproportionately) overburdened with work if both men and women distributed it equally between them," she commented.
It's not Rupi alone who finds herself in this awful situation amid the pandemic, as women in general are shouldering the extra load of household work but are undervalued.
A rise in violence and torture against women is also evident in the surveys done by some women rights organisations.
They never received any assistance from the male members in their families though all of them stayed put at home during the lockdown;
rather their being housebound put extra workload on the female members, said both the homemakers and working women.
Shahnaz Ara of Malibagh had resigned from her job earlier only to spend more time on homemaking. She is now bearing the extra burden at home as her domestic help is unable to come due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Household chores should be acknowledged and appreciated, she said. "My husband always asks me 'what do you do all day?'. 'Are these tasks considered work?'
"But we pay domestic help for doing the same work," Shahnaz chuckled.
"But the male members of the family now realise that I'm struggling with the household chores, and so they're helping me. I wish all men had nurtured the same notion. It would cause less trouble to the women."
Mala Begum, a garment factory worker, has weathered domestic violence as her husband stayed home all the time.
"He became violent while staying at home. He even beat me up if I was late in serving him food or did something he didn't like," Mala told bdnews24.com.
Pandemic pushed her to spend more time for her children, said Afroza Islam, a homemaker in Mohammadpur.
"Earlier they would stay at school for a long time and also went out for tuition. They were also busy with friends. Now those options are gone and therefore, I've to find more time for them."
According to a survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in 2019, women work three times more than men but without a wage. On an average, a woman does household work for 24 hours a week - that is three and a half hours a day without a wage.
Many women leave their jobs due to the pressure of household work, according to the report.
Action Aid Bangladesh has been conducting a survey in the rural areas of the northern part of the country since 2016 on how they spend time.
As per their last report in 2019, a female member of a family performs wage-free work for over 4 hours a day, which is a little over 1 hour for their male counterparts.
On the other hand, women spend 2.13 hours for paid work while men spend 6.18 hours.
The recent surveys done by some development organisations showed that women faced increased violence amid the pandemic when they had to bear the extra household work.
"Our survey found that women were physically abused for issues like not serving food in time or not finishing their work amid the coronavirus crisis. We saw the direct connection between violence and household work," said Banasree Mitra Niyogi, the gender adviser at Manusher Jonno Foundation, an NGO.
At least 98 percent of the participants in the June survey and 94.8 percent in the July survey experienced domestic violence, according to the organisation.
A large number of the victims confronted mental as well as financial abuses - a pattern of controlling, threatening and degrading behaviour that restricts a woman's ' freedom - for not earning money.
Among them, 5,249 women were abused for the first time in their lives.
Household work needs to be acknowledged socially and financially, believes Banasree Mitra.
"It's not that women should get paid for doing household work, but it should be valued. The government should highlight the economic cost of their work in the GDP or shadow GDP." At least 10 percent of the working women are shouldering extra work during the pandemic, says a survey done by the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.
"We thought the men would understand the pressure of work that the women face when they're at home amidst the pandemic; and they would assist the women. A small number of men may have done so. They need a shift in their perspectives, as they live with the idea that these works (household chores) belong to women," said Maleka Banu, the general secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.
The government can reduce the workload on the women by introducing alternatives like daycare centres for children and changing the education system, she said.
A lack of acknowledgement for household chores has been the reason behind women being subjected to domestic violence, believes Maleka Banu.
"Those who are working on these issues and conducting surveys, and also the civil society should talk more about it. When these issues are discussed and focused in the media, it will create awareness among the people. Then the incidence of (violence against women) will automatically go down," Planning Minister MA Mannan told bdnews24.com.