Male breadwinner model dominates policy design: UN report

Updated June 26, 2019

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For every hour man spends on domestic work, a woman spends 11. — AFP/File
For every hour man spends on domestic work, a woman spends 11. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A United Nations Women report has highlighted that the male breadwinner model would continue to dominate the policy design despite changing scenario globally.

The UN Women report puts forth policy agenda to end gender inequalities within families. Titled “Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World”, it examines how the transformations in families impact women’s rights, and reveals most countries can afford family-friendly policies.

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The report highlighted a study conducted in Sindh that was designed to capture paid and unpaid work. The study found that over three times as many women worked compared to what was captured in official data sources.

“Moreover, two out of every three rural mothers reported doing some agricultural work while pregnant, and over one third undertook physically demanding labour such as cotton harvesting,” report stated.

For every hour man spends on domestic work, a woman spends 11

It added that women who worked on the cotton harvest — many of whom said they did so to provide food for their families — were undernourished (with lower body mass indices than other women) and their children were significantly more likely to be stunted than those of mothers who did not undertake this work, even after controlling for household socio-economic status.

“This low-paid work left them depleted, within sufficient income and with little energy or time to ensure good nutrition for themselves and their children,” the report said. “Agriculture accounts for the bulk of women’s labour force participation in South Asia, much of the work they do in the sector is unrecognised and unpaid, but agriculture is also one of the biggest sources of paid work for rural women,” it added.

In her message over the report, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that for every hour a man spent on unpaid and domestic work, a woman spent 11 hours.

“Around the world, we are witnessing concerted efforts to deny women’s agency and their right to make their own decisions in the name of protecting ‘family values’. Yet, we know through research and evidence that there is no ‘standard’ form of family, nor has there ever been,” she said.

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As the report showed, families could be places of care, but could also bring conflict, inequality and, far too often, violence.

“Ensuring that families serve as a home for equality and justice is not only a moral imperative, but essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” the report suggested.

The report highlighted that the changing trends observed in report are that the age of marriage had increased in all regions, while birth rates have declined, and women had increased economic autonomy.

It noted that girls did not have the same inheritance rights as boys in many countries, while there were 19 countries where women were required by law to obey their husbands, and around one third of married women in developing countries reported having little or no say over their own healthcare.

The report called on policymakers, activists and people in all walks of life to transform families into places of equality and justice — where women could exercise choice and voice, and where they have physical safety and economic security.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019