Care work, both formal and informal, plays an essential role in society, but it often goes unnoticed, is unappreciated and is highly gendered. Caring for children, older persons and persons with long-term illness or disabilities often falls to women, as does cooking, personal care, cleaning, collecting firewood or shopping. In fact, globally women perform 76.2 per cent of unpaid care work — spending three times more time on it than men. While this work falls under the care economy, it is often not only unrecognized, but also unpaid. This restricts women’s life opportunities such as education and employment, and affects social engagement and leisure time, therefore affecting women’s health and poverty levels. It’s an issue that requires common understanding, and while significant policy strides have been made in recent years, collective action and agreement is required to translate this into practical action and changes in the day-to-day life of women and girls.
Working with radio stations and women’s rights organizations across sub-Saharan Africa, Farm Radio International aims to reduce the burden of unpaid care on women by increasing recognition for and the representation of unpaid care workers in public dialogues. The project also aims to ensure that evidence-based information is available continent-wide.
Farm Radio’s key approaches:
- On Air Dialogues: Short, carefully designed radio series are broadcast that promote participation in mobile phone-based polling, using Farm Radio’s Uliza Interactive system. The programs will air in five countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania. The discussions and subsequent polling will invite women, particularly in rural areas, to share their views, thoughts and opinions on unpaid care, while also inviting others in the area to do the same. The results will be used to contribute to national and Pan-African policy discussions on unpaid care.
- Script+ Series: Farm Radio will engage, coach and incentivize members of our Pan-African network of broadcasters to air a series of educational radio programs, collectively designed at the national level, about unpaid care work. These will air in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania and in three additional countries: Ghana, Mali and Uganda.
- Network-based Campaigns: Farm Radio will build a resource media kit with information packs, guides and programming suggestions for our Pan-African network of 1,300 radio stations. Alongside hosting an online discussion about unpaid care, we will ask stations to use the kit to air programming on unpaid care, and report back.
Farm Radio will partner with local and regional organizations who work to advance women’s rights to inform the radio programs and to aid sparking social change and the transformation of unequal, deeply rooted social norms. Alongside these partners, Farm Radio will also bring the views of communities to policy and decision makers in an effort to better understand and recognize the needs and perspectives expressed by rural women in their responses to unpaid care.
Through the dialogues and the programming, approximately 6 million people will gain access to stories and conversation about unpaid care. These stories and episodes will better represent unpaid care workers in all their diversity, increase recognition of the value of their work, and start to encourage response by power-holders and decision makers to the key issues faced by unpaid care workers.
The burden of unpaid care is highly gendered and the majority of this work is taken on by women. It creates a disproportionate burden on women and is a key barrier to their social, political and economic advancement.
Farm Radio’s approach connects local public conversations on unpaid care work with those held by decision makers at the national and sub-Saharan levels in order to drive change toward more equitable distributions of unpaid care work.
To do this, Farm Radio is partnering with local and regional organizations working to drive change, emphasizing knowledge exchange among groups like women’s rights organizations, government ministries and bodies, and regional and international organizations. Additionally, Farm Radio will lean on a country-specific unpaid care-focused gender-based analysis study conducted at the beginning of the project that will serve as a foundation for the development of the media kit and a jumping off point for the On Air Dialogues and Script+ Series.
The project will use participatory processes to ensure meaningful participation by diverse women and their communities. It will emphasize equity through the design and content of radio programming that addresses the particular barriers faced by women and girls — as well as ensuring the representation of the diversity of unpaid care workers on air. Soliciting feedback and meaningfully engaging communities in dialogue about the realities of unpaid care work, the social norms, practices, power relations and constraints it poses, will advance gender equality to the benefit of all.
The radio programs themselves will address the root causes and discriminatory social norms underpinning the inequity of unpaid care work, and they will promote better recognition of the value and more equal distribution of unpaid care work. Farm Radio’s strategies of carefully facilitated on-air conversations, following training of broadcasters and guests like women’s rights organizations and community leaders, are effective in amplifying women’s voices. They create less-confrontational spaces that open, rather than shut down, discussion. Engaging local power-holders and local women’s rights organizations also serves to reduce backlash and increase partnership — ensuring that the content developed comes from local actors, and appropriately challenges deeply rooted social norms and practices with sensitivity. The targeted and repeated airing times take into consideration heavy time pressures and schedules of women, as well, while mobile-phone based discussion and community-based listening groups offer spaces for women-only, men-only and mixed-gender groups where ideas can be safely processed and the collective building of confidence and strategies takes place.
Finally, Farm Radio will use the conversations held on air to collaboratively seek commitment from duty-bearers to respond to the expressed rights and needs of unpaid care workers, particularly women.
This project is made possible through financial support of the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada.
- UN Women
- FEMNET, The African Women's Development and Communications Network
- Farm Radio Trust
- Gender Strategic Advancement International (Nigeria)
- Tanzania Gender Network Programme
- Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls (Malawi)
- Union of Ethiopian Women and Children Associations
- Burkinabè Association for the Promotion of the Rule of Law and the Defense of Freedoms (APED-LIBERTES)
- Duration: 1 year (2023-2024)
- Budget: $1M CAD
- Radio stations: 64
- Languages: TBD
The project aims to contribute to increased gender equality and women's empowerment through a commitment to more just and equitable sharing of unpaid care and domestic work within the household and the family in sub-Saharan Africa — but this is really just the beginning.
This project is expected to reach over 6 million people, who will benefit from information about unpaid care work, and the increased representation of the voices of unpaid care workers.
- Increased representation of unpaid care workers in public dialogues about gender-transformative approaches to unpaid care work
- Increased public recognition of the value and inequity of unpaid gendered care work
- Increased commitment by decision-makers and duty bearers to respond to the rights and needs of unpaid care workers
The project will proactively engage decision-makers and duty-bearers in five focus countries in understanding and recognizing the needs and perspectives expressed by rural women in their responses to unpaid care.
Generating a commitment to more just and equitable sharing of unpaid care work begins with the amplification of the voices of people — particularly women — who are engaged in it. It starts with representation in public discourse so that their experiences, needs and hopes are heard. If they are heard, their concerns can be better understood and recognized by wider society. With that understanding and appreciation, unpaid care workers can begin to influence the attitudes and practices of decision-makers at the household, community, national and regional levels.