Thematic Areas

Women's Unpaid Care Work

UCW 2 - The care work context

UCW 2 - The care work context

Unpaid care work refers to the many services that women provide in their homes and in communities, from preparing food to taking care of children, the ill and the elderly. Women are responsible for much of the production of goods and services that poor households consume, yet this is not reflected in economic measurements. Moreover, women and girls have to forego their basic rights to education, healthcare, decent work and leisure time in order to balance all these activities. This perpetuates gender inequality, reinforces gender norms and keeps women and girls in poverty. Women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work reinforces the notion that women belong in the private sphere, while men belong in the public sphere with greater access to money, resources and political power.

We can feel good when we care for others but care work can also be negative when it becomes too much. The situation in which care work becomes excessive and the primary responsibility of a few caregivers, generally women living in poverty, is described as care work overloadCare work overload happens as a result of multiple transfers of care work responsibilities (from the rich to the poor, from men to women, from the private sector and states to households and communities). Care work is undervalued and underpaid because it is seen as women's work. Women with excessive care responsibilities can seldom do other (paid or better paid) economic activities. This leads to economic injustice locking women in a cycle of poverty and inequality. Care work overload also hinders a caregiver’s wellbeing.

Participatory tools to support the analysis of the care work context:

  • Body map - to help participants to explore the effects of unpaid care work on the body and mind.
  • Daily activity chart - to analyse how men and women's (and girls and boys') time is used each day, exploring gender norms.
  • Problem tree - to explore the causes and effects of care work overload for a particular activity (e.g. fetching water).



Here you can download some useful resources.

Tools in this toolbox

Access and control matrix

To analyse who has the power to access and control different resources and who is denied this.The Access and Control Matrix encou…

Activity mapping

To explore the different activities that women and men do each day and how these contribute to the local economy.The tool asks pa…

Body map

To explore issues around health and sexuality, women’s rights and violence against women.Steps in the processDraw the outline of …

Daily activity chart

To help participants to analyse how their time is used each day.The processDraw a daily timetable from sunrise to sunset.Ask part…

Power line

To help participants explore the unequal distribution of power amongst people.  It can evoke many negative emotions among partici…

Problem tree

To explore cause and effect.A tree can be used to explore cause and effect or problem and solution. The various elements of a tre…