In interviews with 541 respondents from Eastern Samar, Leyte, Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat, it appeared that women spend up to 12 hours a day on “unpaid care work,” meaning household tasks like meal preparation, laundry, and childcare. With at least half a day spent on these chores, women and girls are often hindered from taking up pursuits in education, employment, political engagement, and leisure activities.
The WE-CARE (Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care) Project, implemented by Oxfam in the Philippines and its partners, sheds light on this overlooked issue with “I LABA YU,” a campaign to encourage men to share in household chores, particularly laundry, and counter the false notion that domestic work is solely a woman’s job. WE-Care, which has project sites in Eastern Visayas and Mindanao, aims to shift the way society views care work and provide solutions to the heavy and unequal responsibilities for housework and care that Filipino women face. The study also finds that the burden of unequal care work is not just a household issue, but also needs to be prioritized by communities and across institutions, including the Philippine government and the private sector.
“The work of women is often invisible and so there is a need to resurface and recognize this issue as it limits the rights and opportunities of women. This is especially true for women living in poverty. Ang pagkukusa sa gawaing bahay ay hindi lamang nanatiling responsibilidad ng mga nasa loob ng bahay kundi responsibilidad rin ito ng ating gobyerno at ng iba’t ibang organisasyon at sektor sa lipunan,’’ said Amparo Miciano, Executive Director of PKKK, a national coalition of rural women, and a partner in the WE CARE Project.
I LABA YU believes that by sharing household chores and responsibilities, like washing clothes, husband and wife also spend quality time together, working and communicating, thereby strengthening their marriage.
The campaign pushes the need to understand care as a key component in women empowerment and to achieve Oxfam’s societal goal of overcoming inequality and vulnerability, summarized in a four-step method called the “4Rs” to address care work overload: Recognition, Reduction, Redistribution, and Representation;
“The “4 Rs” to address disproportionate burdens on women will involve: recognizing the value of care work and shifting negative attitudes toward gender roles; reducing hours spent on care tasks; redistributing care work responsibilities equitably across all sectors in society; and ensuring carers are represented in decision- and policy-making,” said Maria Rosario Felizco, Country Director of Oxfam in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, the City of Tacloban and the Municipality of Salcedo in Eastern Visayas have enacted ordinances on unpaid care work, which means that this issue will be included in their planning and budgeting, and will improve women’s access to safe water and childcare centers.