New maths needed for home work

Position vacant ‘ house wife: “Applications are invited for the position of a manager of a lively team of four demanding individuals of differing needs and personalities. The successful applicant will be required to perform and coordinate the following functions: compassion, counselor, financial manager, buying officer, teacher, nurse, chef, nutritionists, decorator, cleaner, child care supervisor, social secretary and recreation officer.”

The advert further states that there will be no payment for the job but “allowances will be given by arrangement with income earning member of the team” and working hours will be around the clock, with no holidays or benefits.

Hands up those who would apply? Not too many! Yet this is the work that most women do every day; often over and above their waged employment.

Asked how she feels about playing the dual roles of a house wife and a manager at Stanbic Lusaka Branch, Jacklyn Mutale said she wished she could be a better mother because in a day she only spends about three hours with her daughter.

Mutale’s day starts at 05.30 hours when she wakes up to prepare breakfast for her daughter and husband. She then takes a 20 minutes drive to drop her daughter at her school before she proceeds to her office situated in the centre of Lusaka.

Mutale is at the office by 7.15 am to finish up previous work left in her tray. Between 7.55-08:10 am, she has a meeting with staff where they discuss service and operations issues. Because of the nature of her job, Mutale has no structured day of work.

She usually leaves her office at between 19:30 and 20:00 and goes straight home to help her daughter with her homework. The bank manager seldom sleeps before 22.00.

Down the road, Selita Chumi, a 40 year old widow and a sweeper for the Lusaka City Council (LCC) starts her day at about 5 am when she wakes to clean the house, draw water and cook for her children before leaving for work at 07.15h. It takes her 15-20 minutes to walk to Los Angeles or Mumbwa road where she usually does her sweeping along the roads and knocks off at about 15 hours.

As a group leader, Selita earns K8, 500 per day, but this is a pittance against her daily needs and those of her children. “I have tried to supplement my small remuneration from the council by engaging in other income generating business but what I have received from there is nothing,” she sighed.

According to traditional economics, gross domestic product (GDP) is made up of two sectors, the private and public. However, feminist economics argue that there is a third sector: the “care economy” commonly known as the unpaid reproductive and domestic work of women that includes caring for the aged, the sick and doing voluntary community services.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 1995 Human Development Report estimates that women’s unpaid work is equivalent to some 11 trillion United States dollars annually. Some 90 percent of AIDS care in Sub-Sahara Africa takes place in the home and goes unrecorded in formal statistics.

Zambia has not yet documented the work that women do outside of the formal labour market where women already predominate among the unemployed and lower paid wage earners. Zambian Minister of Gender Rose Banda said that her newly established ministry will coordinate with CSO in initiating a time use study for women and men; the basis for quantifying the unwaged work of women.

She adds: “I believe that development actually starts from the very work that women do that is unpaid for and underestimated. Therefore there is need to disaggregate such data so that people are able to see the extent of the problem and how it can be addressed”.

l Perpetual Sichikwenkwem is a journalist in Zambia. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.

July 2006
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