CSW63, unpaid care work and my mother

March 19, 2019 shutterstock_185015096

ARROW is engaging with the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW63) taking place at the UN headquarters in New York City. Our team will be bringing you thoughts on the deliberations from different perspectives in order to share with you what we are learning at this venue.


The CSW63, being the first for me, brought a whole different experience.

CSW63 addressed many issues that are integral to women’s empowerment and gender equality from unsafe abortion to female genital mutilation, trafficking, child marriage and many more. The discussions around unpaid care and domestic work caught my attention the most.

Unpaid care and domestic work basically refers to domestic work such as cooking, cleaning, washing, fetching water and firewood and caring for others including the elderly, children and the sick.[i] Unequal distribution of unpaid care work between women and men is evident around the globe. Women do two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men and hence, they bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work.[ii] These chores that women do is valued to be between 10 and 39 percent of the Gross Domestic Product[iii], meaning it can contribute more to the economy than the manufacturing, commerce or transportation sectors and yet many out there say, she is not working/ she is a house wife/ she is a stay-at-home mom.

So as I write this, flying home from the CSW63, I ask myself if my mother would have lived her life differently if all her hours did not go into taking care of me, the family and the house.  Would she have used those hours to pursue education or engage in employment or business that would have given her economic independence and the freedom to simply do what she enjoys doing? As a young girl, she along with her sisters quit school to help with the house chores and to care for the younger siblings. And later she cared for her elderly in laws in addition to managing the house and our family.

I am sure, like my mother, there are many women and girls out there who dedicate their hours and their lives to care for their family. Many of them had probably sacrificed their dreams, their careers, their lives, to do this. However, with policies that recognise, reduce and redistribute women’s and girls’ unpaid work, and provide social protection and basic infrastructure, maybe more women will be able to enter and remain in the paid labour force and realise their full economic potential.[iv] Or course, men will have to take on a greater share to start with.

Now, back to my question if my mother would have lived her life differently, I will find out.

[i] Women at Work, Trends 2016, International Labour Organization; Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, Report of the Secretary-General, E/CN.6/2017/3, December 2016

[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid


by Shamala Chandrasekaran

Programme Officer, ARROW