Unlocking sustainable development in Africa by addressing unpaid care and domestic work

Oxfam Policy Brief

Paper author: 
Leah Mugehera, Amber Parkes
Paper publication date: 
Monday, February 3, 2020

Across Africa, ambitions to achieve inclusive and sustainable development are being undermined by inadequate investment in the care economy. Women and girls are providing millions of hours of unpaid care and domestic work (UCDW) – a provision which props up the economy and underpins society, yet remains under-recognized, undervalued and under-invested in.

While inattention to care policy and the unequal distribution of UCDW has stalled gender equality in every country globally, this brief focuses on the specific barriers that UCDW creates for sustainable development in Africa. It explains how investing in quality, accessible and affordable public services and infrastructure in Africa can address heavy and unequal UCDW and unlock progress across multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The brief draws on research and programming experience from Oxfam’s Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care)1 initiative in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, and presents evidence-based policy solutions from these five countries to address UCDW across the continent.

The African Union (AU) has a unique role to play in taking this agenda forward by encouraging and supporting member states to recognize, reduce and redistribute the heavy and unequal unpaid care work provided by women and girls. This means developing care policies, properly investing in care-supporting services and infrastructure, and ensuring that carers are represented in budgeting and decision making. Doing so will fast-track the AU’s achievement of its development goals and Agenda 2063 objectives as well as the SDGs.