Thematic Areas

Women's Unpaid Care Work

UCW 5 - Advocacy on unpaid care work

UCW 5 - Advocacy on unpaid care work

Unpaid care work is critical for well-being and human development but it is not recognised or valued by policy makers. Instead governments retreat from service provision and women are forced to provide basic care services for their households.

To challenge ingrained power relations that cast unpaid care work as primarily women’s work, change needs to happen at every level: for individual women; within the household; in the community; and at the state level. In each sphere, unpaid care work needs to be recognised, reduced and redistributed so that women can be represented in social life and enjoy their rights to live a life of dignity in both private and public spheres.

Women living in poverty should be supported to discover their own power, get organised and connect with movements, publicly demanding their rights from local institutions and national governments. The specific policy demands will change from country to country. At the local level, policy demands will be informed by the discussions in the Reflection-Action circles. This will then inform national level discussions that will be taking place concurrently with national and regional partners. No single policy will address women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work. A number of policies are required across different sectors alongside a fundamental change in attitudes and beliefs about the value of care work.

Possible advocacy pathways

  1. Technological changeTechnological change, such as improved piped water or electricity in a community, can help to reduce women’s unpaid care work. However, it will not have a significant impact without changes in public policy and in social norms.
  2. ‘My husband helps with the dishes now.’ Men taking up more unpaid care work will certainly help to reduce some women’s unpaid care work. However, interventions focused just on getting men to do more unpaid care work will not bring about systematic change. It will be effective for those women in households were men are receptive to this, but it will not work in those households where men are not. Men will also choose the kind of unpaid care work that they do because they still have the privilege and power to decide this for themselves. Therefore, getting men to do more unpaid care work is a first step, but it needs to be complemented by women’s groups mobilising to challenge these power imbalances and demand that the state also provide public services. For poor households, the lack of time, resources and energy, mean that even if men do more unpaid care work there will still be a care deficit because more resources and services are needed. This is where the state has a role to play!
  3. LivelihoodsThere are many livelihood projects designed for women living in poverty that completely ignore their unpaid care work. This livelihood approach does not consider women’s rights to decent work conditions such as a living wage, good working conditions and time for rest. These initiatives also do not consider strategies to move women beyond low-paying work by addressing their unpaid care work. A pathway that starts out with improving women’s livelihoods can lead to the realisation of their rights, if it is coupled with a collective model that supports care work and advocacy for more public services.
  4. From policy to social norms. National civil society organisations might approach care for people or for the environment from the perspective of changing policies. This could be about lobbying for a national time-use survey to track how much more time women spend on unpaid care work than men. Or it could be a new environmental policy that will stop big companies from polluting the river. These policies may get approved by government without women’s mobilisation, but they will lead to social change around care for people and the environment if women’s groups take up the issue themselves.

Participatory tools to support advocacy on UCW include: 

  • Problem-solution tree - to explore the root causes that lead to the problem and the possible solutions that could address this problem.
  • Balloons and stones - to identify people, organisations and events that might help or hinder you in your work.



Here you can download some useful resources.

Tools in this toolbox

Balloons and stones

To help identify factors that might help or hinder you in your work or in your progress towards a goal. The stones represent thin…

Care sharing square

To help identify actors that can support and share an individual's care work.The tool helps to introduce the idea that care is a …

Citizens' voice

Citizens' voice is an approach to citizen journalism that can support the extension of communities’ capacity to pursue their own …

Forcefield analysis

To identify helpers and spoilers – people, organisations or events that might help or hinder your work. For a similar tool, adapt…

Gatekeeper tool

To identify people who can help you access duty bearers relevant to your advocacy or campaigning work.The processDraw up a table …

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…